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Portsmouth construction company owner pleads to wage theft charges; ordered to pay restitution

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced that a Portsmouth man pleaded to misdemeanor wage theft charges in Newport County District Court and was ordered to pay over $1,500 in unpaid wages to two former employees.

Ronald Harnois (age 43), owner of Roharn Construction in Portsmouth, entered a plea of nolo contendere to two counts of failure to make payment to an employee upon separation and one count of check fraud.

At a hearing on Tuesday before District Court Judge Colleen M. Hastings, the court sentenced Harnois to one year of probation and ordered full restitution of nearly $1,550 to two former employees. Harnois subsequently made restitution in full.

Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Harnois failed to pay wages to two former employees of Roharn Construction for residential construction work during the summer and fall of 2018.

During that time, Harnois failed to pay a former employee approximately $731 in unpaid wages.

Harnois also failed to pay another former employee for work performed in August and September of 2018, owing approximately $818 in unpaid wages.

In addition, Harnois issued check for payment of wages that was later returned for insufficient funds.

The case was referred to the Office of the Attorney General by the Department of Labor and Training, following the Department's attempts to prompt Harnois to pay the unpaid wages.

In 2021, Attorney General Neronha worked with members of the General Assembly to introduce legislation that would bolster protections for workers in Rhode Island. The proposed legislation called for increased penalties for perpetrators of wage theft. The legislation ultimately did not pass during the 2021 legislative session and is planned to be reintroduced next session.

Special Assistant Attorney General Carole L. McLaughlin and investigators from the Office of the Attorney General led the prosecution and investigation of the case.

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