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Builder underreports nearly $2 million of payroll in NYC

July 13, 2018, Manhattan, NY — The construction company that oversaw a Financial District work site where a man fell 29-stories to his death pleaded guilty to manslaughter and paid more than $800,000 in restitution to victims of wage theft and to the state for insurance fraud schemes, the Manhattan district attorney announced.

SSC High Rise Inc. pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the second degree Friday for causing the death of construction worker Juan Chonillo, 44, because of equipment that skirted city regulations at 161 Maiden Lane near South Street.

The company was also forced to pay $568,700 in restitution for six years worth of wage theft from more than 50 employees and another $325,000 was paid out to the New York State Insurance Fund for underreporting nearly $2 million in payroll. SSC High Rise Inc. also paid a mere $10,000 corporate fine, the maximum under state law, for its atrocious conduct, detailed District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

"SSC High Rise stole half a million dollars from vulnerable workers, and then robbed Juan Chonillo of his life," said Vance. "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."

Vance called for more aggressive corporate penalties against companies that endanger construction workers.

"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," the district attorney said.

The Queens carpenter who was killed in the accident was supporting his family in Ecuador by working on the 57-story Financial District tower, but was directed by his foreman to release his harness to fix equipment that was improperly secured and skirted safety regulations. The equipment jolted and Chonillo fell to his death.

Source: Tribeca Patch

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