The Marlborough Law Firm represents former NFL cheerleaders in civil wage theft lawsuits against the NFL and the Buffalo Bills. We are also keenly aware of other cheerleader wage theft lawsuits against the Oakland Raiders, Cincinatti Bengals, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So imagine our surpise when we learned that a former member of three of those teams is facing criminal wage theft charges for failure to pay his own workers.
As we have stated before, wage theft is a crime that should be taken very seriously. Sam Adams, a former NFL star for the Bills, the Raiders and the Bengals may have to learn that lesson the hard way.
On February 4, 2015, Adams was charged with twelve counts of stealing his worker’s wages by the State of Washington. A copy of the Washington Attorney General's charges can be downloaded here
Adams, a three time Pro Bowl defensive tackle played for a number of NFL teams including the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and Cincinatti Bengals before his retirement from the NFL in 2007.
More recently, Adams operated six gyms in Washington and Oregon, including Lincoln Plaza Athletic Club and West Seattle Athletic Club. Numerous wage complaints were filed by Adams' former employees at the clubs.
According to the Information, Adams was charged with first, second and third degree theft and filing false or fraudulent tax returns. Sentencing guidelines indicate a potential sentencing range for the charges of 43 to 57 months, which could be increased by aggravating circumstances.
One of the theft charges concerns Adams' alleged failure to pay unemployment insurance premiums to the state. The raises an often overlooked aspect of the wage theft epidemic. In many instances, employers who steal their workers' wages, also cheat federal and state governments by avoiding payroll taxes, medicare taxes, and contributions to unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation funds.
In connection with the charges, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “Wage theft is a crime, and its victims are often among our most vulnerable residents. I won’t stand for violators who cheat working families out of their hard-earned wages … My office will prosecute unscrupulous businesses that steal money out of the pockets of wage earners and taxpayers.”
Criminal prosecution for wage theft is still rare compared to other property crimes. The Adams case is only the second criminal wage theft case filed by the State of Washington. However, Washington seems to be poised to take a leadership role in fighting illegal wage theft. According to a press release issued the AG’s office:
The Attorney General’s Office has put an emphasis on combatting wage theft in partnership with state agencies and county prosecutors. Additionally, the Attorney General recently proposed bipartisan legislation that would ensure the State of Washington does not do business with wage theft violators. The bill would prohibit businesses that have willfully or repeatedly violated the state’s wage payment laws during the past three years from receiving any contracts with Washington state.
We applaud Attorney General Ferguson for his stance on worker protection and support his proposed legislation that would keep government contracts out of the hands of wage thieves.
We should note that, at the time of this writing, Adams has not been convicted of any of the twenty-one crimes with which he has been charged.