NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — “Utterly unqualified” workers were hired to sign off on safety logs at dozens of New York City construction sites, authorities said Wednesday.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced that two companies and seven people have been indicted on charges that include grand larceny, fraud and forgery.
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The city’s Department of Investigation launched a probe of 400 construction sites after a Department of Buildings inspector discovered a log supposedly signed last summer by a safety manager who had died a month earlier, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.
Investigations then found that Avanti Building Consultants hired untrained workers off Craigslist and similar websites who previously worked as dishwashers, hairdressers, hotel bellhops and short-order cooks, designated them as “interns” and then had them go to construction sites and forge safety logs, said Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters.
Vance said he found false sign-offs at 40 sites. In some cases, no inspections were even performed, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
Sites with scaffolding require a site safety manager on scene every day, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.
“Instead of getting somebody who’s been trained and licensed by DOB, you get hairdressers, bellhops, Internet workers to come and do this,” Peters said.
The defendants didn’t just scam the system, Vance said, they endangered construction workers and all the people who walked by those sites.
“I think the most important thing is what didn’t happen,” the DA said. “What didn’t happen in this case is no one was injured or seriously hurt.”
Avanti’s managers, Richard Marini, 60, and Richard Sfraga, 49, have been charged, as well as four “interns” who helped carry out the alleged scheme. Prosecutors says Marini was the ringleader and pocketed nearly $1 million.
Kishowar Pervez, 40, vice president of NYCB Engineering Group, has been charged after allegedly subcontracting Avanti without the knowledge of his clients and then billing his clients for inspections. Pervez also is accused of pressuring NYCB employees to hire his personal friends and family members — who were not licensed inspectors, prosecutors said — to complete safety logs at construction sites.
The men were led into court in handcuffs Wednesday afternoon to be arraigned. They all pleaded not guilty, Brown reported.
Meanwhile, the Department of Investigation is making a slew of changes, closing loopholes to prevent such a scam from happening again.
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