Attorney General Cuomo: Contractors Arrested For Underpaying Scores Of Nyc Construction Workers Over $500,000

NEW YORK, NY (July 30, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrest and arraignment of two contractors who kept more than $500,000 in wages from 84 construction workers for work performed on public construction projects throughout New York City.

Yuly Aronson, the owner of May Construction Co., Inc., and Anthony Branca, the company’s accountant, are charged with inflating payroll records to conceal $548,912.47 in underpayment to workers during the period from April 2005 to November 2006. May Construction Co. was paid approximately $2 million for employee wages and withholdings by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, based on the false certified payroll reports they submitted. Employees of May Construction Co. worked on New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services construction projects at numerous municipal buildings throughout New York City.

“Underpaying workers on public contracts is a despicable, yet all too common practice. Contractors who cheat the public works system by keeping wages earned by workers and lying to government agencies must be stopped,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “My office will aggressively prosecute contractors who steal from hard working employees and from the taxpayers who fund the projects. Contractors on public works projects should be warned to obey the law and pay the prevailing wage, or face the consequences. I thank Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn for her assistance in investigating this vital case.”

Aronson and Branca both face numerous charges, including Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a C Felony), Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (an E Felony), Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (an E Felony), and Failure to Pay Wages. If convicted, Aronson and Branca face a maximum of fifteen years in prison and restitution to the workers for their unpaid wages. The defendants entered not guilty pleas before Judge Dena Douglas of New York County Criminal Court.

The case was investigated by the New York City Department of Investigation. Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said, “The City's taxpayers who shoulder the high costs of public construction can ill afford to waste a half-million dollars on a dishonest contractor's phony payroll scam. DOI is pleased to stand with the office of New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to send the clear message to those who deal with the City: At a time when the public is facing severe fiscal constraints there will be no room or tolerance for fraud in public contracting. In that regard, I also want to thank DCAS for the tip that led to this important prosecution.”

The charges in the case are mere accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven otherwise by a court of law.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Meredith McGowan and by Senior Investigator Brian Ford, along with Analyst John F. Manning of the New York City Department of Investigation, Office of the Inspector General. The case is being supervised by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Mylan Denerstein and Deputy Bureau Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Felice Sontupe.

The Attorney General thanks the New York City Department of Investigation for their assistance in the case.