The owners of a Lake Elmo electrical company will spend time in the workhouse for underpaying employees.

Thomas R. Clifton, 51, of Lake Elmo, and Earl Standafer, 57, of Burnsville, each pleaded guilty last week to felony theft by swindle over $35,000.

Clifton was sentenced to 270 days in the Hennepin County workhouse and five years' probation. Standafer received 210 days in the workhouse and three years' probation.

"This is a good outcome," County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "It sends the message to them and to other business owners: Don't cheat your workers, or you will pay the price."

Clifton and Standafer were owners of C & S Electric Co. In 2010, the general contractor Donlar Construction Co. hired C & S to do electrical work at the Normandale Community College student center in Bloomington. The electric company submitted the low bid and promised to pay the prevailing wage.

From about August 2010 to the following August, C & S had 16 electricians on the site. The prevailing wage for them would have been $34.30 an hour, plus $24.20 per hour in fringe benefits. The company failed to pay into their retirement accounts, a legitimate fringe benefit C & S falsely claimed had been paid. During the construction, C & S was required to submit documents to Donlar indicating it was paying the prevailing wage, and those documents were signed by Clifton or Standafer.

Freeman praised Donlar Construction Co. for paying the electricians' back wages once it learned C & S had underpaid by about $257,250. Donlar later successfully sued C & S for the money.