• Construction Company Crime

    Author : August 28, 2018

    Construction companies and their leadership have been hit hard this month by the attorneys in the Manhattan D.A.’s office. Between manslaughter and wage theft, major companies show their flexibility in crimes.

    First, the SSC HIGH RISE, INC company pled guilty to Manslaughter in the Second Degree after their conduct caused the death of construction worker Juan Chonillo last year. The company also paid around $842,000.00 in restitution, plus the maximum corporate fine allowed in the state of New York: $10,000.00. On top of this, court filings show that SSC had also admitted to stealing nearly half a million dollars in wages from over 50 employees and underreporting nearly $2 million in payroll.

    In 2016, SSC was a subcontractor to do superstructure work on a luxury, high-rise residential building project in Manhattan. The company used a scaffolding system that was then moved from floor to floor with a crane. The structures would be secured to the exterior of the building with ‘wall shoes’ which lock into place. NYC building code requires loads to be secured before moving, and nothing can be moved while individuals are present or inside the structures or platforms. Last September, an SSC foreman directed workers to remove a platform and move it laterally while five employees were still on the unit – in spite of the Code. The platform got jammed, so Juan Chonillo removed his harness to fix it – at which point the platform jolted and he fell 29 stories and died. The company was subsequently charged with manslaughter in the second degree.

    The company also is accused of a wage theft scheme, where they underpaid or refused to pay multiple employees over a six-year period. But SSC is not the only company implicated in the DA’s new Construction Fraud Task Force. This month, CRV Precast Construction, LLC was indicted, along with six of its employees for deliberately misclassifying workers, underpaying them, and falsifying information about payroll, including a worker who died on the job site.

    Under federal law, contractors with federally funded construction projects have to pay the federal rate of wage to its workers. They must be properly classified, and the wage must correspond to their classification so that they are not underpaid. CRV was hired on a federally-funded project and was to erect the steel framework and concrete planks. It required both ironworkers – a higher classification – and concrete laborers. Individuals in the company misclassified ironworkers as concrete laborers to underpay four workers around $40,000.00. In connection with the scheme, the indictment also claims that CRV also provided false information to the New York State Insurance Fund so that their workers' premiums would be lowered.

    The task force of the D.A. focuses on both workplace safety on construction sites, and wage theft that might be happening in an effort to reduce the corruption and poor working conditions that have been commonplace in Manhattan developments for years. They have made dozens of presentations to thousands of workers around the city. Companies should attend these presentations and take note of the law and how strongly it is being enforced before attempting to cut corners.

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