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Post date: August 23 2007

Watertown Contractors Arrested For Shorting Workers More Than $90,000 On Alfred E. Smith Building Construction Project

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 23, 2007) –Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced the arrests and arraignments of the owner and operator of a Watertown-based construction company on charges that they underpaid 11 flooring installers in excess of $90,000 while working on renovations of Albany’s Alfred E. Smith State Office Building.

“Prevailing wage laws underscore the integrity of New York’s public contracting process,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “The underpayment of workers is an unconscionable affront to taxpayers, as well as a sad reflection of the greed and abuse that some resort to in order to increase profits.”

Ricky and Betty Joe Frazier of White Rd. in Watertown, owner and operator of Noble Construction Group, both face charges of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (class E Felony), Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (class E felony), and 11 counts of Failing to Pay Wages (misdemeanors). In addition to paying workers wages owed, if convicted on the top charge, the Fraziers face a maximum of 4 years in prison. Ricky Frazier pleaded “not guilty” before Albany City Court Judge William Carter and Betty Joe Frazier pleaded “not guilty” before Albany County Acting Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly.

Between June 24, 2005 and July 17, 2006, employees of Noble Construction Group were transported from Watertown to lay carpet as part of a construction project for the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building in Albany. The construction contract was subject to the state’s prevailing wage law, which dictates hourly rates that must be paid to employees on public works projects.

Records show the weekly certified payroll records submitted by Noble indicated that the workers were being paid the legal hourly prevailing wage rates of between $33.78 and $67.58/hour. However, the charges allege that employees were actually paid hourly wages ranging between $8.00 and $33.90/hour. The Fraziers allegedly falsified the company’s certified payroll records in an effort to conceal underpayments of over $90,000.

The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the New York State Department of Labor.

Commissioner M. Patricia Smith said, “This case should serve as a reminder that the New York State Department of Labor and the Attorney General's office are working together to aggressively investigate those employers that woefully violate the labor law and underpay workers.”

“We commend the Attorney General and we are pleased that he believes that this type of violation is important enough to pursue,” said Andrew Vooris, Council Representative from the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters. “This should be a warning to those Contractors who do not think twice about violating the law. Knowing that the Attorney General will prosecute Contractors who violate the law should help put an end to this abuse.”

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

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Richard Balletta of the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau, Nancy Snyder of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau and by Investigator Michael Battisti of the Investigations Bureau. The case is being supervised by Jennifer S. Brand, Bureau Chief of the Labor Bureau and Gail Heatherly, Bureau Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau.