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Post date: April 2 2003

Contractor Sentenced To A Year In Jail

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that the owner of a construction company who underpaid workers on a New York City Housing Authority project has been sentenced to serve a year in jail and ordered to pay more than $690,000 in back wages to 76 former employees.

Azam Ali Chaudhry, the owner of Republic Construction & Management, Inc., will serve a year in jail after pleading guilty to several charges, including Grand Larceny and Failure to Pay Wages. In addition, as part of a guilty plea, Chaudhry has been ordered to pay back wages of $692,655 to the former employees who were either underpaid or not paid at all for their work at the Bronxdale Houses in the Bronx.

"This defendant broke the law by failing to pay prevailing wages to workers and in some cases, not paying workers at all," Spitzer said. "It is a crime in New York to fail to pay workers the wages to which they are legally entitled. We will continue to aggressively enforce the state's labor laws, including seeking criminal penalties and jail time in appropriate cases."

The corporation pleaded guilty to all of the counts contained in the indictment. As its president, Azam Ali Chaudhry, pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony; Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First degree, a class E felony, and Failure to Pay Wages in Accordance with the New York State Labor Law, a class A misdemeanor. As a result of the felony convictions, both Mr. Chauhdry and his corporation are prohibited from being awarded any public work contracts in the New York State for five years. This conviction marks the first "felony debarment" of a contractor and its principal obtained by the Attorney General's office since the prevailing wage law was amended last year to prohibit felons from bidding on public contracts for a period of five years from the date of conviction.

From May of 2001 until January of 2002, the laborers performed masonry work for Republic on a construction contract with the New York City Housing Authority for the repair of exterior brickwork. The work performed was subject to federal and state prevailing wage laws. The defendants failed to pay the workers the prevailing wages, and in some cases failed to pay any wages for the work performed.

As part of a guilty plea in January 2003, Chaudhry admitted that he failed to properly pay wages to the employees and filed false payment requisitions to the Housing Authority to secure progress payments for his company.

The case was brought to the attention of the Attorney General's office by the Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET) and the New York City Carpenters Labor-Management Fund.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Richard Balletta and James W. Versocki of the AG's Labor Bureau. Investigator Ed Elie of the Attorney General' s Investigations Bureau, along with New York City Department of Investigation, Office of the Inspector General for the Housing Authority Assistant Commissioner Steven A. Pasichow and Assistant Inspectors General John Kilpatrick and Irene Serrapica, assisted the investigation.