New York City Task Force Targets Construction Industry Fraud

August 11, 2015

New York’s building boom has spurred the formation of a task force to probe corruption in the construction industry after a worker was killed earlier this year.

The task force of prosecutors and inspectors was announced last week after two men and their companies were indicted for causing the worker’s death by failing to address repeated warnings about safety at a construction site in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District in April.

Residential construction permits rose 156 percent in the year ended June 30, marking the sixth consecutive year that permits increased, according to the New York Building Congress. The jump followed a 26 percent rise last year in construction spending to $36 billion.

“There are human consequences to New York City’s building boom,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said. He formed the task force with the Department of Investigation, the inspector generals of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Business Integrity Commission. “A rush to develop can often result in hazardous lapses in safety practices.”

Vance announced indictments of Wilmer Cueva, 50, of Elmwood Park, New Jersey, a foreman at Sky Materials Corp. of Queens, New York, and Alfonso Prestia, 54, of Westchester, New York, a senior superintendent for Harco Construction LLC of New York, along with their companies, in connection with the death of 22- year-old Carlos Moncayo in April.

Moncayo was working at a construction site on April 6 when a 13-foot-deep unsecured trench collapsed and crushed him, according to Vance’s office. Prosecutors said Cueva and Prestia were responsible for worker safety at the site and ignored repeated warnings from inspectors to halt work in the trench before it collapsed.

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