PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced that a former Warwick business owner pleaded yesterday in Providence County Superior Court to wage theft and check fraud charges stemming from his failure to pay over $7,000 in wages to three former employees of Bright Sky Solar, LLC in 2018.
David Pelino (43), of Woonsocket, pleaded nolo contendere to three counts of failure to pay wages, one count of issuing a fraudulent check over $1,500, and one count of issuing a fraudulent check under $1,500.
At yesterday's hearing before Superior Court Magistrate Patrick T. Burke, Pelino was sentenced to 18 months of probation and ordered by the court to repay $2,364 in restitution to two former employees. The State had recommended a two-year suspended sentence with probation as well as full restitution and 100 hours of community service.
Between the time charges were filed against Pelino and yesterday's hearing, he repaid approximately $4,700 in wages to the three former employees. Yesterday's order for restitution represents the balance of the unpaid wages owed to the former employees.
"The defendant's refusal to pay his former workers money they'd earned is stealing – plain and simple," said Attorney General Neronha. "Wage theft not only harms employees denied the money they are owed, but also those employers who compensate their workers fairly and do play by the rules. I hope that employers, like the defendant here, that would steal from their employees in this way are getting the message. We know why you do this. You think that your employees are too scared to complain, or that if they do that no one will listen. You're wrong. This is a significantly heightened law enforcement initiative. And the stakes are getting higher."
Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that during various times in 2018, Pelino failed to pay wages to three former employees totaling over $7,000 and knowingly issued fraudulent checks.
Pelino was the owner and operator of Bright Sky Solar, LLC, a construction company previously located in Warwick that specialized in window and solar system installation. Between June and September of 2018, Pelino laid off three employees and failed to pay wages that were owed to them.
The former employees filed complaints with the Department of Labor and Training (DLT), prompting an investigation by the DLT, Rhode Island State Police (RISP), and Office of the Attorney General.
During the investigation, it was determined that Pelino had failed to issue a check to one former employee and issued checks to two employees that could not be cashed due to insufficient funds.
Prior to Pelino's arrest by the RISP in September 2019, he had repaid a fourth employee for unpaid wages in response to a complaint filed with the DLT.
Detective Courtney Elliott of the RISP Financial Crimes Unit led the investigation with assistance from the DLT. Special Assistant Attorney General Carole McLaughlin prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.