A Maspeth, Queens, steel-fabrication company copped to cheating hundreds workers out of overtime pay and wages, and agreed to pay out more than $6 million owed to welders and ironworkers, according to its plea deal with the state Department of Labor following a joint investigation with the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
AGL Industries pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny and began paying 499 workers the money owed them with a $1.5-million allocation Aug. 13, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office said.
The balance will be paid over five years in what is the largest single wage recovery in the DOL's history.
The company also admitted to reporting fraudulent financial information and will settle through a $260,855 payment to the state's Unemployment Insurance fund, the DA’s office said. A company official, Dominick Lofaso, also pleaded guilty to a class D felony for grand larceny.
Welders and ironworkers had complained to company officials about underpayment but were essentially told “tough,” according to the DA’s office. They then took their grievances to Ironworkers Local 361, in Ozone Park, and the DA’s office in February 2018. A subsequent joint investigation by the DA’s Construction Fraud Task Force and the DOL revealed that the company withheld overtime and other wages from workers during a roughly four-year period starting in November 2013.
Matthew Chartrand, business manager Local 361, hailed the settlement, saying “one of the bad players in the construction field is being brought to justice. Thanks to all—this is a great job for the benefit of workers!"
The DA’s office said the settlement represented a “monumental victory for construction workers,” adding that exploitation of construction workers is widespread despite that trade’s “treacherous” working conditions.
In the statement, DA Vance said the “landmark conviction” would restore “rightful earnings” to the ironworkers and welders. He said the Construction Fraud Task Force has returned about $7.4 million to workers since its creation.
“We are committed to fighting wage theft, which impacts employees across all industries, but is especially common in the construction industry,” he said the statement. He urged workers who believe they have been cheated out of earnings to contact the task force by text message at (646) 712-0298. Messages can be submitted anonymously.
The DOL last year paid about 35,000 workers nearly $35 million it had collected from companies that engaged in wage theft and public-works violations. The department has returned nearly $300 million in stolen wages to 280,000 workers since 2011.
"Wage theft and fraud have no place in New York, and unscrupulous companies who break the law will be held accountable,” Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in the statement from the DA’s office.
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