Attorney General Cuomo Announces Arrests Of Owner Of Arthur Ave Bakery And Owner Of Bronx-based Gas Station For Ripping Off Workers And Defrauding State

NEW YORK, NY (March 26, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrest of Arthur Avenue Bakery owner Walter Galiano for illegally failing to pay wages, failing to pay into the State’s already strapped unemployment insurance fund, failing to file either personal or corporate taxes, and filing false documents with the State to cover up his scheme. Galiano, 57, allegedly withheld over $350,000 from 25 workers. He was charged today in Bronx Criminal Court with several felonies and misdemeanors stemming from his violations of New York State penal, tax and labor laws.

Cuomo also announced the arrest of another employer, Alex Moreno, 35, of Yonkers for failure to pay wages, failure to pay into the state’s unemployment system, and failure to cover workers with Workers’ Compensation insurance. Mr. Moreno owns Getty Gas Station and Car Wash on Edward Grant Highway and Getty Gas Station on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. He is alleged to have taken over $225,000 from his workers during the course of the investigation. The two arrests are part of Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing drive to ensure New York State workers are protected and compensated as they deserve.

“My Office is committed to bringing to justice employers who think they are somehow above the law,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “New York States labor laws ensure that hard-working individuals across the state are paid what they are due and adequately covered in cases of illness, injury, or unemployment. Employers who violate these laws abuse the entire system - harming their workers, law-abiding businesses, and ultimately, the taxpayers of this State.”

Patricia Smith, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, said: “The treatment of workers and the conduct of these employers throughout the investigation was nothing short of despicable. These cases represent good enforcement and good partnership among government agencies and send a strong message to all workers and employers that labor laws will be enforced to the fullest extent of the law.”

Zachary S. Weiss, Chair of the New York State Workers' Compensation Board, said: “For nearly a century, workers in New York have benefited from the protections offered by our workers’ compensation system. For employers to deny this basic protection is criminal and violators will be treated as such.”

According to the complaint, Galiano failed to pay the minimum wage to at least 25 workers while requiring them to work up to 80 hours a week with no overtime pay. Galiano allegedly tried to cover up the illegal treatment of his employees through a scheme of tax fraud and business record manipulation.

In a separate complaint filed today in Bronx Criminal Court, Moreno is charged with paying his employees as little as $4.00 per hour for 12-hour days, with no overtime. Additionally, Moreno failed to secure Workers’ Compensation insurance for his employees, a felony offense in New York. In November of 2008, the Workers Compensation Board gave Mr. Moreno a heavy fine and issued a “Stop Work” Order in an effort to get the employer to comply with the law. Rather than comply, Mr. Moreno allegedly continued his illegal operations, leading to today’s arrest. Finally, Mr. Moreno allegedly falsified documents he filed with the state to avoid full payment into the unemployment insurance fund.

According to the charges, by filing false information with the State, Galiano and Moreno both avoided paying contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for most of their workers. Unemployment insurance provides temporary income for eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and who are ready, willing, and able to work. If an employer does not pay into the fund, it can be extremely difficult for a worker to access those benefits. The current unemployment rate for New York State is over seven percent - up from less than five percent one year ago. There are currently over 475,000 New Yorkers relying on the unemployment insurance fund to make ends meet. Employers who cheat the fund cheat taxpayers, who pay ever higher amounts to keep the system working. Similarly, Workers’ Compensation insurance pays medical bills and wages for employees hurt on the job. Failure to have this coverage puts the burden for these vital benefits on the taxpayer and can delay crucial health care for workers. Finally, it puts employers who play by the rules at a significant disadvantage to those who cheat.

These are the latest arrests in a string of criminal charges the Attorney General has brought against employers who fail to protect and compensate their workers. These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Meredith McGowan and Rachel Gold under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice James Rogers. The investigation was handled by Investigators Brian Ford and Ismael Hernandez of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, Investigators Jonathan Tisk and Russell Mohammed of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, and Senior Labor Standards Investigator Cloty Ortiz from the Department of Labor.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.