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Post date: January 14 2016

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Convictions Of NYC School Construction And Housing Authority Contractor And Labor Brokers Who Stole Thousands From Workers

Contractor and Labor Brokers Convicted Of Failing To Pay Prevailing Wages And Stealing Thousands Of Dollars In Wages

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters announced today the convictions and sentencing of a contractor, Baldlev Singh, who with his brother Avtar Singh, also operated as labor brokers, for underpaying and stealing wages from workers on New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) public works projects. 

“My office will not hesitate to criminally prosecute public works contractors who steal from workers and ignore New York’s labor laws,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “It’s simple: workers must be paid the wages they are owed.”

DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters said, "These contractors exploited honest workers for their own personal gain, and rightfully, have been barred from working on City projects for the foreseeable future. Prevailing wage fraud cannot be taken lightly – it creates potential public safety issues and takes advantage of some of the City’s most vulnerable populations. We will continue to aggressively pursue these cases and assist in bringing them to prosecution. I thank the Attorney General and his staff for their partnership in this important area." The initial arrests in December 2014 and April 2015 stemmed from a joint investigation by the SCA and NYCHA into underpayment and kickback schemes on projects at P.S. 196K, a public school in Brooklyn, P.S. 7x, a public school in the Bronx, and the Pomonok Houses in Queens. 

Of several individuals indicted as a result of these arrests, Baldev Singh, 39 of South Ozone Park, NY, and his brother Avtar Singh, 40 of South Ozone Park, were indicted in Queens County on several counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree and “Kick-Back” of Wages Prohibited in connection with their roles as “labor brokers” on the P.S. 196K project and Pomonok Houses projects.  As “labor brokers,” the Singh brothers were alleged to have hired many of the workers on the P.S. 196K and Pomonok Houses project, established a daily maximum rate of wages to be earned which was well below that of the prevailing wage rate, and then alleged to have demanded a “kick-back” from the workers of any wages exceeding the daily maximum. 

Baldev Singh d/b/a Citi General Construction & Waterproofing, Inc. was also separately indicted in Bronx County on one count of Failure to Pay Prevailing Wages and Benefits in connection with his role as a contractor on the P.S. 7x project.  There, Baldev Singh was alleged to have paid several workers at a rate well below that of the proper prevailing wage rate.  

Today, Baldev Singh d/b/a Citi General Construction & Waterproofing, Inc. pleaded guilty to one count of Failure to Pay Wages and Benefits. He will be sentenced in the Bronx Criminal Court in November. On December 22, 2015, Baldev Singh and Avtar Singh each plead guilty to one count each of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree a class “D” Felony.  They were ordered to pay $18,000.00 in restitution and each was sentenced to a 3 year conditional discharge, with conditions including payment of full restitution and agreement to be prohibited from bidding upon or being awarded any public work contracts in New York for 5 years.  Payment of an additional $19,573.00 in unpaid wages had been secured by the Office of The Attorney General (OAG) prior to, and in contemplation of the pleas.

In addition to the criminal actions announced today, OAG and New York City School Construction Authority Inspector General’s Office have pursued civil recovery of the back wages related to indictments in February. Under the civil provisions of the New York State prevailing wage law, a general contractor is financially responsible for any underpayment of wages and benefits of its subcontractors. The underpayments for the P.S. 7X project were paid by general contractor Dean Builders Group, Inc. of Great Neck, New York. Dean entered a settlement agreement with the New York City School Construction Authority on January 14th, 2015 wherein it agreed to assign $201,946.00 in funds to the SCA to cover the underpayment in wages and benefits. As to benefits, Dean has paid over an additional $90,000.00 to the Mason Tenders Benefit Fund for benefits owed to the workers on the public work jobs.

The Attorney General thanks the Inspectors General for the School Construction Authority and the New York City Housing Authority, both of whom report to the Department of Investigation, and their staffs for their assistance on this investigation.

Both cases were investigated by William O’Brien and Lee Callier formerly of the School Construction Authority, Office of the Inspector General, led by Assistant Inspector General  of Investigations John Gray, First Assistant Inspector General Gerard McEnroe and Inspector General Maria Mostajo. Investigators Elsa Rojas, Sixto Santiago, Edward Ortiz and Salvatore Ventola and Investigators Luis Carter and Michael Ward, as well as Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus, all of the Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau, also assisted with the investigation. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Dominic Zarrella. 

The Pomonok Houses development project case was also investigated by Deputy Inspector General Douglas Schneider and Special Investigators Robert Diienno, Ryan Covino and Emily Bizzarro of DOI's Office of the Inspector General for NYCHA, led by Inspector General Ralph Iannuzzi and Associate Commissioner William Jorgenson of the New York City Department of Investigation. The cases were prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Ross, Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Holt, and Labor Bureau Criminal Section Chief Richard Balletta and Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the Auto Insurance Fraud Unit. Terri Gerstein is the Labor Bureau Chief, Alvin Bragg is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice and Kelly Donovan is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice.