A.G. Schneiderman and NYC Comptroller Stringer Announce Arrest of Public Works Contractor Charged with Prevailing Wage Theft of Nearly $700K

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

May 3, 2017

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Defendant Allegedly Failed To Pay $691,040 In Prevailing Wages And Benefits To Ten Workers Performing Construction On Bronx Public Schools

NEW YORK— Today, Attorney General Eric T. Schneideman and New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced the arrest of contractor Vickram Mangru on charges that he underpaid wages and benefits to workers on a publicly-funded New York City construction project. The arrest is part of an ongoing investigation into widespread allegations of prevailing wage theft at New York City public works projects.

Contracted to perform work on several New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) public schools in the Bronx between December 2012 and April 2014, Mangru – while doing business as Vick Construction out of Valley Stream, New York – was charged with allegedly cheating six workers out of $301,683 in wages.  Vick Construction and Mangru had previously been debarred and banned for a five-year period from performing public work projects by the New York City Comptroller’s Office for failing to pay proper prevailing wages to workers. On December 31, 2013, Mangru entered into a settlement agreement, admitting he underpaid workers by $34,347 in prevailing wages and supplements. 

Undeterred, Mangru allegedly continued to operate in several public schools and continued to pay well below proper prevailing wage rates, forming AVM Construction in January 2014. AVM Construction was purportedly owned by Mangru’s son Ravi Mangru and his wife Gayatri Mangru, who both claimed to be the company’s president. However, according to workers, Mangru ran the day to day operations of AVM Construction, including directly supervising the work and paying employees. 

Between April 2014 and February 2015, Mangru is alleged to have continued working on multiple NYCDOE school projects in the Bronx. An investigation determined that Mangru, now operating under the umbrella of AVM Construction, allegedly failed to pay proper prevailing wages to ten workers on those school projects by an additional $389,357 during the ten-month period.

In total, Mangru allegedly failed to pay $691,040 in prevailing wages and benefits to ten workers, from December 2012 to February 2015.

“Prevailing wage laws exist to protect workers and ensure that they are fairly compensated. As we allege, the defendant repeatedly broke the law, stealing nearly $700,000 in wages from ten of his employees,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Those who attempt to cheat hard-working New Yorkers out of their wages and benefits should take note: you must pay workers proper prevailing wages on taxpayer-funded projects – or face the consequences.”

“We don’t take the step of barring City contractors lightly, but when we do debar them, we expect them to comply. In this case, that didn’t happen – and that’s why we referred this case to Attorney General Schneiderman.  Mr. Mangru now finds himself facing criminal charges,” said NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “With the climate we’re in, it’s more important than ever that we protect vulnerable citizens from being cheated out of their hard-earned wages. The message today is clear: If you target vulnerable New Yorkers, we’re going to take action.”

"We have a strict process in place to carefully vet contractors working on DOE projects," said NYC Schools Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose. "We commend Attorney General Schneiderman for protecting the rights of hard-working New Yorkers and for holding this vendor accountable.”

Mangru is also accused of falsifying business records, including misleading and inaccurate payroll records listing the hours worked and wages paid to his workers, to the New York City Department of Education’s Division of School Facilities in an attempt to cover up the underpayments he made while doing business as Vick Construction.

Mangru is charged with Failure to Pay the Prevailing Rate of Wage or Supplements and with five counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First degree—all felonies.  If convicted of the top count against him, Mangru faces five to 15 years in prison, debarment for an additional five years, and restitution payment for his workers.

The arrest of Vickram Mangru is part of an ongoing effort to root out prevailing wage violations in New York City. Eight other subcontractors have been arrested in the past two and a half years for allegedly violating prevailing wage laws.  Those arrests involved work performed at P.S. 196K in Brooklyn; P.S. 7X in the Bronx; the NYCHA Pomonok Houses development in Fresh Meadows, Queens; and, NYC HPD’s Sugar Hill houses in Harlem.

This case was investigated by NYC Office of the Comptroller Investigators Francisco Gonzalez, Dwayne Gibson, and Ilona Stadnicka, with assistance from NYC Department of Education Division of School Facilities Investigator David Coles, under the supervision of Deputy Director Kimberly De Vine.  The investigation was also assisted by Attorney General Investigator Frank Tirri, under the supervision of Senior Investigator Sylvia Rivera and Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus. The Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Dominic Zarrella. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Matthew Ross and Jennifer Michael, led by Labor Bureau Criminal Section Chief Richard Balletta under the supervision of Labor Bureau Chief ReNika Moore and Acting Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.  The case is also being prosecuted with the assistance of the NYC Comptroller Office’s Bureau of Labor Law Supervising Attorney Michael Turilli and Counsel Caroline Friedman. The Comptroller Office’s Bureau of Labor Law is headed by Constantine Kokkoris.

The defendant was arraigned on May 2,2017 and was released on his own recognizance. The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.