The New York State Department of Labor announced today that a joint investigation among the DOL, the New York State Insurance Fund and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance’s office has resulted in the recovery of $568,700 in stolen wages and $325,000 in unpaid workers’ compensation premiums.
SSC High Rise Construction Inc. (SSC) came under scrutiny while Vance’s office was investigating a death that occurred at one of their worksites. That investigation expanded to include wage theft when the Department of Labor received a tip from one of the company’s workers that employees were being paid in cash. The investigations resulted in a corporate plea deal for SSC that included a charge of manslaughter in the second degree, an accompanying penalty of $10,000, and repayment of $568,700 to 77 current and former employees. The DA’s investigation also revealed undisclosed payroll, resulting in $325,000 in additional workers’ compensation premiums and penalties due to the New York State Insurance Fund.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said, “I am committed to protecting all workers in New York State, especially our most vulnerable. We will continue to work with strong prosecutors like Cyrus Vance to ensure we stop fraudulent and criminal behavior, hold perpetrators accountable for swiping hard-earned pay from our residents, and protect communities in every corner of the state."
Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “Protecting the hard-working men and women of New York is a priority of the Department of Labor and by cracking down on these unscrupulous business practices our message is clear: wage theft will not be tolerated in this state. Half a million dollars is a lot of money— especially when it is coming out of the pocket of our workers. Let this case serve as a warning to those who would seek to steal from hard-working New Yorkers: you will be brought to justice."
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said, “SSC High Rise stole half a million dollars from vulnerable workers, and then robbed Juan Chonillo of his life. Their business model included assigning vulnerable workers to some of the most dangerous jobs in the City, failing to train them, stealing their wages, and allowing them to die. It is unthinkable that after a preventable tragedy like the death of Chonillo—a father of five—the company faces a maximum penalty of just $10,000. This is pennies on the dollar compared to the potential profits on a high-rise construction job in a booming real estate market. My Office and our partners will continue pursuing criminal cases against companies that endanger and defraud their workers, but meaningful, practical deterrence—in the form of higher corporate penalties for killing and maiming workers—is the only way that New York State can end these dangerous and unlawful practices that put vulnerable New Yorkers’ lives at risk."
New York State Insurance Fund Executive Director & CEO Eric Madoff said, “This contractor defrauded the workers’ compensation system to gain an unfair advantage over its competitors. Businesses like SSC Highrise hurt honest employers and the people who work for them. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and DA Vance for holding such individuals accountable. NYSIF will continue to aggressively combat fraud while partnering with fellow agencies and dedicated prosecutors across the state to protect New York’s workers."
This latest recovery builds on Governor Cuomo’s aggressive efforts to deter fraudulent business practices, including the recovery and return of $258.4 million to 215,335 workers since taking office in 2011 – the highest total in the nation. Over the past year, the State Department of Labor has referred egregious wage theft cases to prosecutors who have subsequently filed criminal charges. These referrals have resulted in indictments, felony complaints or non-prosecution agreements stemming from investigations across several jurisdictions.
DOL is responsible for investigating and enforcing wage and hour labor standards in New York State.