Laura Plzak, owner of Honda Electric in Loretto, won a juicy $1.5 million government contract to do some electrical work near Interstate 35W and Interstate 694 back in 2010. That’s when her troubles started.
Plzak sent her team of electricians to work on the highway for the summer. Because the construction was publicly funded, all of her employees were supposed to be paid the prevailing wage of Hennepin County.
Electricians, for example, were supposed to receive a sweet $62.61 an hour.
Plzak shortchanged them – by a lot.
After the construction season had ended, one Honda Electric electrician discovered that although he was supposed to earn $58.50 an hour for the type of work he did, Plzak was only paying him $17 an hour.
The electrician complained to the Department of Transportation, which asked Plzak for all her employees’ records of time and pay.
While individual employees were supposed to fill out their own timesheets, it was obvious that Plzak had handwritten them all herself. Plus the timesheets didn’t match the paystubs that the employees kept in their own files.
In 2013, another Honda Electric worker complained to the Department of Transportation. She was only getting paid $10 an hour when her work was worth $42, so she called Plzak to ask what was up. Plzak begged the employee not to report the discrepancy.
The electrician had the entire phone call recorded, so of course she did.
Last week, Hennepin County Judge Tamara Garcia found Plzak guilty of 16 counts of wage theft, totaling about $242,000 that should have gone to 22 workers instead of Plzak’s own pocket.
“Ms. Plzak’s actions were driven by greed, pure and simple, and it was the hardworking electricians who suffered,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
Plzak will be sentenced May 13. Her husband, Jeffrey, pleaded guilty to theft last year and is serving time in prison.