Dance studio owner ordered to pay thousands to former employees, students

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – The owner of a defunct dance studio that was featured on the reality TV show “Dance Studio Rescue” has been sentenced to probation for failing to pay three of her employees.

Marlaina Rapoza, owner of the now-closed Triple Threat Performing Arts Center in Warwick, pleaded no contest to two counts of failure to pay wages. A judge ordered Rapzoa to pay $4,798 in restitution to three dance instructors who worked at the studio.

According to an affidavit obtained by Call 12 for Action, Rapoza in 2015 “was ordered to pay each complainant their due wages plus 12% interest and additional civil penalties.” Rapoza didn’t comply with the court order, so an arrest warrant was issued. She agreed to a plea deal last month.

Call 12 for Action has learned there’s also a civil judgement against Rapoza for nearly $16,000 from a lawsuit filed by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office.

The lawsuit claimed Rapoza violated the Deceptive Trade Practices Act by charging consumers for dance lessons and competitions that never happened.

According to the Attorney General’s office, Rapoza was ordered to pay $200 per month to resolve 29 consumer complaints.

“Despite the national television exposure and the chance to turn around her failing business, Ms. Rapoza violated the trust of her employees when she failed to pay them wages and violated the trust of her young students with failed promises of elite dance lessons and competitions,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

Rapoza did not immediately respond to Call 12 for Action’s request for comment.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.