Tour operator gets jail time for labor violations

Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A Juneau businessman has become the first person ever sentenced to jail in Alaska for violating state wage and hour laws, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development said.

Martin ''Ben'' Goenett frequently hired Juneau teens 15 to 17, underpaying them or not paying them at all for work at Northgate Tours and Cruises, Immaculate Cleaning and Island Waterways, said Terri Begley-Allen, an investigator for the department.

''His youngest victim was 15; he had him working for both Northgate and Island Waterways -- in the office, doing sales, down on the docks doing sales and computer work,'' said Begley-Allen, who described Goenett as a charmer who could convince almost anyone of almost anything over the telephone.

Last summer, Goenett denied wrongdoing, closed his businesses and disappeared until his arrest in Anchorage earlier this year.

Last week, he was sentenced to 510 days in jail with 494 days suspended, ordered to perform 80 hours of community service and fined $5,750 with $4,000 suspended.

Juneau District Court Judge Peter Froehlich also ordered Goenett to pay restitution to former employees and placed Goenett on three years probation.

Goenett is serving time at Cordova Center, an Anchorage halfway house.

Charged by the Department of Labor with 97 separate labor law violations, Goenett pleaded guilty to 10 counts.

''This is the first time the court has seen fit to allow jail time for wage and hour violations,'' said Al Dwyer, director of state labor standards and safety. ''We hope it starts a trend. This should serve as a deterrent and a reminder that blatant disregard for Alaska's wage and hour laws has serious criminal penalties.''

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