Attorney General Cuomo Arrests Owner Of Clarence Plumbing And Heating Company For Ripping Off Employees

BUFFALO, N.Y. (October 22, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrest of a Clarence plumbing and heating company owner for extorting his employees into returning money that they were rightfully owed by threatening to fire them.

Last year, Salvatore Musso, owner of Musso Plumbing and Heating, Inc. of Sheridan Drive in Clarence, was forced to pay thousands of dollars in overdue wages to the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) after an audit revealed that he had failed to compensate his employees for overtime hours and had made illegal deductions from their paychecks. The DOL then disbursed checks to the affected employees. Once the employees received their compensation, however, Musso allegedly demanded they cash the checks and hand over cash to him, or they would lose their jobs.

Attorney General Cuomo’s Office arrested and charged Musso with three counts of grand larceny in the 4th degree by extortion (class E felony), punishable by up to four years in prison. He was arraigned in Clarence Town Court and released on his own recognizance pending his next court appearance on November 18.

“Stealing wages from New York’s workers will never be tolerated,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Employers who try to circumvent the law by not paying employees what they’re due, and then threaten their jobs are committing a crime. My office is committed to protecting the rights of our workers and will not hesitate to prosecute employers who threaten them.”

In 2006, the Department of Labor conducted an audit that concluded that Musso failed to pay his employees for all the hours they had worked and was making illegal deductions from their paychecks in violation of the New York State Minimum Wage and Wage Payment Laws. In all, the audit showed that Musso underpaid 21 employees a total of $10,066.79, primarily for overtime work. The DOL then collected the overdue wages from Musso and disbursed individual checks to the affected employees. Musso allegedly then demanded that the employees give him back the cash or he would fire them.

The DOL referred the case to the Attorney General Cuomo’s office when it became aware of the possible extortion. Attorney General Cuomo thanked the Department for its participation in the case.

State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith said, “When employers steal from their workers, they are doing nothing short of breaking the law. Fortunately in this case, strong labor law enforcement, which is of paramount importance here at the Labor Department, has prevailed.  The Labor Department will continue to work with the Attorney General’s office on behalf of affected workers in this case.”

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Letizia Tagliafierro of the Buffalo Regional Office under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General In-Charge Russell T. Ippolito, Gail Heatherly, Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice and James Rogers, Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice. The investigation was handled by OAG Investigators Michael McCartney and Paul R. Scherf and Department of Labor Investigator Jeanette Castagnola.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.

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