New Bedford Couple Charged with Labor Trafficking
BOSTON — A New Bedford man has been charged with labor trafficking, assault, and wage theft in connection with forcing two individuals to work for an East Providence cleaning company, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Fernando Roland, age 60, was indicted on Friday by a statewide grand jury on the charges of trafficking of persons for forced service (12 counts); assault and battery; assault; willful failure to pay minimum wage (12 counts); and willful failure to pay overtime (12 counts). The offenses occurred at various locations in Bristol, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Barnstable counties, and Roland will be arraigned in each Superior Court at later dates.
Lisa Matthews, age 51, of New Bedford, who is Roland’s live-in girlfriend, was also indicted on Friday on one count of conspiracy to traffic persons for forced services. She will be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court at a later date.
Martins Maintenance Inc., the company that Roland worked for, was indicted on charges of trafficking of persons for forced service (seven counts); failure to pay minimum wage (nine counts); and failure to pay overtime (eight counts). The AG’s Office alleges that Martins Maintenance had knowledge of the conduct of its employee, Roland, related to his forcing the two individuals to do work for the company.
The AG’s Human Trafficking and Fair Labor Divisions began an investigation after a referral from officials in Rhode Island. The investigation was conducted as part of a collaborative cross-bureau effort at the AG’s Office on labor trafficking cases along with FBI Boston Division’s Human Trafficking-Child Exploitation Task Force.
The investigation revealed Roland performed cleaning and maintenance for Martins Maintenance, a janitorial and maintenance company based in East Providence that serves businesses in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.
According to authorities, Roland recruited a woman from abroad and within a week of her arrival in April 2016, transported her to various locations and instructed her to do cleaning work for Martins Maintenance.
The victim allegedly worked more than 40 hours a week, and during the first several weeks was paid no wages for the work she completed. After that, authorities allege she was paid well below minimum wage, and out of the cash she received each week, she was required to return money for housing and transportation to Roland and Matthews.
The victim was never paid overtime, or provided with health insurance coverage or any other employee benefits.
Roland also required the victim to complete household chores, including cooking and cleaning, in his residence where she lived.
The investigation revealed that Roland retained the victim’s passport over various periods of time, including around the expiration of her visa. Roland allegedly threatened that if she tried to return to her home country, she would be arrested by immigration authorities. Roland also on one occasion allegedly physically assaulted the victim, after which she fled Roland and Matthews’ home where she lived.
During the course of the investigation, authorities also determined that Roland forced another victim to do work for Martins Maintenance, for which she was paid well below minimum wage. He allegedly physically threatened her as well.
The victims were allegedly forced to work at businesses in New Bedford, Fall River, Assonet, Dartmouth, Sharon, Middleboro, Plymouth, and Bourne. AG Healey’s Victim Services Division is working with victim service organizations to ensure victims have the assistance and services they need.
--Attorney General's Office