The owner and an employee of Boston contractor Atlantic Coast Utilities each face three counts of perjury after being indicted by a grand jury for allegedly lying on workplace safety forms that companies are required to file with city officials to obtain permits.
The indictments of Laurence Moloney and Konstantinos Kollias follow a downtown Boston accident in February that killed two workers.
Moloney, on three occasions, and Kollias on one, allegedly claimed on affidavits filed in 2019 and 2020 that the company had no prior U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations, according to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, which announced the grand jury indictment on Nov. 30.
However, the federal agency had issued workplace safety citations to Moloney-owned companies in 2016 and again in 2019, the district attorney’s office states in a press release.
The affidavits, called Mattocks-Higgins Affidavits, are named for the two workers who died in a 2016 Boston trench collapse. The owner of the employer involved in that accident was convicted of manslaughter in October 2019.
Contacted by ENR, Moloney declined comment.
Hank Brennan, his Boston-based attorney. argued that the “government got the facts wrong” and predicted the charges would be dismissed. Moloney is "an honorable man" who "never misled or lied to anybody, including the city of Boston," and is eager to clear his name in court, the attorney said.
Fewer than a half dozen U.S. contractors, most of them small, are charged with felonies related to worksite accidents on average each year, according to an informal count. Although the charges usually involve manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, prosecutors sometimes find other types of crimes.
The perjury indictments stem from an investigation into the deaths of two Atlantic Coast Utilities workers, Castaneda Romero, 27, and Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, who were killed on a company worksite on Feb. 24 in Boston’s Financial District.
A Ford F750 dump truck at the worksite backed up and struck the two men, knocking them into a nine-foot-deep trench.
The district attorney said it was determined that the truck driver had no criminal liability for the deaths.
The perjury indictments also come in the wake of OSHA's proposed $1.35 million in fines against construction companies owned by Moloney.
The agency announced Aug. 18 it had proposed fines against Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. of Boston and its successor companies, including Sterling Excavation LLC, for 28 alleged safety and health violations.
The companies are owned by Moloney, according to OSHA.
James Frederick, the U.S Dept. of Labor’s acting assistant secretary for safety and health, told reporters in an Aug. 18 conference call that the incident was "horrific and preventable."
OSHA said the companies' alleged violations include what it termed as refusal to train the workers to recognize and avoid jobsite hazards and a failure to inspect the jobsite to identify and correct hazards.
Frederick said Moloney “has an extensive history of violating OSHA standards, dating as far back as 2001.”
Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA regional director in Boston, said that between 2001 and 2019, OSHA inspected Moloney's companies six times, which resulted in 14 safety citations.
Before the February accident, OSHA had cited Moloney's companies with proposed fines totaling $81,242—of which $73,542 is unpaid and has been referred to debt collection.
In a statement given to the Associated Press after OSHA’s announcement of the proposed $1.35 million fine, Atlantic Coast Utilities called the deaths a “tragic accident” and said it was assessing the findings
"The company will assess the actions taken by OSHA today and will determine its next steps, including contesting any assertion of company error or negligence," the statement to the AP said. "It is clear that this was a tragic accident and any attempt to portray it otherwise is both inaccurate and imprudent."