In conjunction with the New York City Dept. of Investigation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey office of the inspector general, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority office of the inspector general and the Business Integrity Commission for the City of New York, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office announced August 5 that a task force will be formed in order to look into possible corruption in the construction industry.
“This task force is an unprecedented effort to attack wrongdoing and unsafe practices at construction sites in this city,” Mark G. Peters, DOI Commissioner, said. “What the partners on this Task Force have seen again and again in construction fraud investigations is that those who ignore integrity also undermine safety.”
The announcement comes following the indictment of Wilmer Cueva, 50, of Elmwood Park, N.J., foreman at Sky Materials Corp, of Queens, N.Y., and Alfonso Prestia, 54, of Westchester, N.Y., a senior superintendent for Harco Construction LLC of New York, N.Y., as well as their respective companies, in conjunction with the death of Carlos Moncayo this past April at a construction site in the Meatpacking District.
The 22-year-old Moncayo, an employee of Sky Materials Corp., was killed on April 6 when an improperly secured 13-foot trench collapsed, crushing him. Cueva and Prestia, along with their companies, had failed to heed several warnings regarding safety hazards at the site of the accident. They are charged with manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment in the second degree.
Construction permits are up for the sixth year in a row in New York, with residential permits increasing 156% this past year. The uptick has lead to some issues within the industry, making the forming of this task force a necessary step to ensure safety.
“There are human consequences to New York City’s historic building boom,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. “A rush to develop can often result in hazardous lapses in safety practices. Unfortunately, many of these dangers are only exposed after the lives of workers and residents are jeopardized, which is why my Office and our partners have formed the Construction Fraud Task Force to investigate proactively construction-related crimes that threaten the integrity of the industry and safety of the City.”
Assistant District Attorney Diana Florence of the Manhattan district attorney’s office’s Rackets Bureau has been named attorney-in-charge and will lead the task force. The committee will meet each month with the goal of identifying and curbing crime in the construction industry such as fraud, bribery, extortion, money laundering, bid rigging, larceny and safety violations, among others.