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Owners of five shuttered South Coast nursing homes cited for wage theft

State Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has cited for wage theft the out-of-state owners of five Massachusetts nursing homes that were shuttered last month.
State Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has cited for wage theft the out-of-state owners of five Massachusetts nursing homes that were shuttered last month.(Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)

The out-of-state owners of five Massachusetts nursing homes that were shuttered last month have been cited for wage theft by the state’s attorney general and slapped with $84,950 in penalties for failing to pay hundreds of their workers at the South Coast homes.

Officials at Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said the penalties were levied against Skyline Healthcare owners Joseph and Michael Schwartz. The nursing homes they operated in New Bedford, Fall River, and Dighton were closed last month after Healey petitioned a state court to name a receiver to protect the health and safety of their 245 residents.

The residents have all been moved to other nursing homes in the state. But the closings were part of a consolidation that has reduced the number of Massachusetts nursing homes by more than a third since 2000 and uprooted thousands of elderly and disabled residents.

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Skyline, which once ran more than 120 skilled nursing facilities in 10 states, surrendered its license to operate the Massachusetts homes on April 23 and appears to have financially collapsed. Two phone numbers listed for its Woodbridge, N.J., home office weren’t answered Wednesday.

Healey’s investigation found that Skyline didn’t make timely payments of more than $64,000 in wages to 106 employees, failed to provide pay stubs to 369 employees, and didn’t furnish payroll records requested by investigators. Its failure to pay workers led to staff shortages at the homes in the weeks before they were shut down.

Under state law, Massachusetts employers are required to pay wages earned by their workers within six days of the end of a pay period and must provide employees with pay stubs detailing the number of hours they worked, the hourly rate, and the deductions made.

Workers were repaid their back wages by the court-appointed receiver, who drew on the assets of the five nursing homes: Bedford Gardens, Bedford Village Care and Rehabilitation Center, and Hallmark Care and Rehabilitation Center in New Bedford; Dighton Care and Rehabilitation Center in Dighton; and Highland Manor Care and Rehabilitation Center in Fall River. Money recovered from the penalties issued Wednesday will go into the state’s general fund.

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Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.