WENHAM — A Wenham man who owns multiple heavy equipment and construction businesses in Revere pleaded guilty Thursday to tax and mail fraud charges stemming from a scheme to pay workers "under the table" over multiple years. 

Ralph Caruso is facing up to 27 months in federal prison under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors in the case. 

Caruso, 72, owns Caruso Equipment Company, Caruso Construction and Equipment Company Inc., Northgate Recycling Company Inc., and Circle Trucking, as well as half of City Rentals LLC.

The Internal Revenue Service began investigating Caruso and learned that over approximately a six-year period, Caruso was paying workers from separate accounts.

He maintained payroll accounts at Santander Bank and Eastern Bank, which were used to prepare standard payroll checks, prosecutor Victor Wild told the court. However, he also maintained Metro Credit Union accounts that were used to pay additional wages to employees that were not reported to the government, "under the table," said the prosecutor.

Agents interviewed several employees and obtained a search warrant for his business office, the prosecutor said. While they were there to execute the search warrant, Caruso showed up and agreed to give a statement admitting to the scheme, which netted him more than $93,000 through refunds of workers compensation premiums. He also paid a lower amount of payroll taxes. 

Caruso admitted in court that the allegations were true. 

Caruso told the judge that he'd been a business owner for four decades.  

Sentencing is set for May 20. Caruso remains free on a $10,000 unsecured bond. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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