Jobsite pressures, such as time crunches and monetary issues can quickly tempt good people into making some pretty poor decisions. There are also others who use their construction business as a front for other illegal activities. Many people were arrested for a variety of reasons in 2016 and the list below should serve as both a reminder and a warning for those considering making bad decisions.
If you’re ever faced with mounting fines from government officials, the last thing you want to do is to bribe them into reducing the fines or overlooking the issue. That’s a tough lessen a Newark, NJ contractor learned after he bribed a fire inspector $7,000 to reduce over $8 million in fines in fire code violations. That fire inspector later turned the contractor in to the FBI and the man was sentenced to 19 months in prison.
Full story: N.J. contractor sentenced for bribing fire official | NJ.com
2. Fraud, Fraud, and more Fraud
A Deerfield Beach, Florida construction company was accused of creating shell companies to avoid worker’s compensation premiums and payroll taxes over several years, according to the Sun Sentinel. By creating over 20 shell companies, the company was able to hide the number of employees they actually had and allowed them to make an additional $17 million in profit, according to the police investigation. 6 different men from the company were arrested and face racketeering and fraud charges.
Full story: Deerfield Beach construction company employees accused of millions in fraud | Sun Sentinel
Performing work to rebuild the World Trade Center area should be sacred ground, but the owner of a steel erection company was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in August. According to Reuters, prosecutors said that tens of millions of dollars was set aside for minority and women owned subcontractors to work on the project, but instead, the owner gave kickbacks to the principals of those entities as front while his company actually performed the work.
Full Story: World Trade Center contractor found guilty of fraud scheme | Reuters
3. Criminal Negligence Causing Death
After a 2009 scaffold collapse killed 4 construction workers and critically injured another in Toronto, a prison sentence was finally handed down on the project manager responsible for overseeing the site. The PM was found guilty of four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily injury, which resulted in a prison sentence of three-and-a-half years, according to The Star. The sentencing marked the first time in Canada a supervisor had ever been given jail time after the work site death. Only 2 of the 6 construction workers on the scaffold had fall protection, a decision reportedly made by the superintendent.
Full story: Construction manager gets prison in scaffold deaths | The Star
4. Using Tin Cans in Structural Concrete
A devastating 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan in February of 2016 killing a total of 116 and injuring many others. All but two of the deaths were caused by a collapse of the 17 story tall Weiguan Junlong (Golden Dragon) tower, the only high rise building to collapse in the city.
As crews have searched the area and initial investigations into the collapse have begun, they have discovered empty tin cans inside structural concrete beams. As crazy as that may sound, the reason those cans were there in the first place might be even crazier. A structural engineer told CNA, a Taiwan news channel, that, prior to 1999, use of cooking oil cans in concrete beams was actually not even illegal and were used to make the beams look bigger without adding much weight, for aesthetic reasons. Cooking oil cans. You read that right. The Golden Dragon tower was built in 1983, so the presence of the cans isn’t technically supposed to be a problem. Rebar was also found bent to 90 degrees, instead of 135 degrees, which increases the risk of the rebar loosening in the event of an earthquake.
However, on Wednesday, February 10, Taiwanese authorities did arrest the developer and two executives of the company that originally built the tower, even though the companies that built the structure are no longer in business. According to CNN, the three people arrested will face charges of professional negligence resulting in death.
Full story: Structural Concrete in Taiwan High Rise That Collapsed in Earthquake Filled With Tin Cans | Construction Junkie
5. Swindling Wages from Employees
The co-owners of an electrical contractor in Minnesota, a husband and wife team, were found guilty of swindling $242,000 from 22 employees while working on a Minnesota DOT project. According to Twin Cities Business, the state’s prevailing wage laws required the workers to be paid $58.50 per hour, but one worker claimed that he had only been paid $17 per hour. The husband was sentenced to 22 months in prison after pleading guilty, but we were unable to find the results of the wife’s sentencing.
Full story: Company President Found Guilty Of Swindling Wages From Employees | Twin Cities Business
6. Assaulting a Supervisor With Construction Equipment
In one of the most bizarre stories of 2016, a 32-year-old Florida man was arrested after allegedly using a front end loader to dump two loads of dirt onto his 57 year old supervisor. Once the man was trapped by the weight of the dirt, the report says that the attacker then grabbed a 6-foot metal level and began beating the man in the head with it, until he lost consciousness. A witness called 911 in a panic and several employees were able to pull the 32 year old off of the other. According to WFTV 9, the supervisor suffered a fractured skull and bleeding in his brain.
7. Allowing a Worker to Fall 6 Stories to His Death
A construction company owner was charged with manslaughter after a 50-year-old worker fell 6 stories to his death in Brooklyn, NY. According to the Brooklyn District Attorney, the owner allegedly failed to provide a harness and a rail to the worker and had been warned about these dangers 4 times before.
Full story: Construction company owner indicted after employee work-site death in Coney Island | ABC7 NY
8. Allowing a Trench Collapse to Kill a Worker
In November, Wilmer Cueva, of Sky Materials, an excavation subcontractor, was criminally convicted of Criminally Negligent Homicide and Reckless Endangerment after he ignored repeated warnings from a safety inspector. His sentencing, which took place on December 15, has resulted in a jail sentence of 1 to 3 years in a state prison.
“Wilmer Cueva knowingly and repeatedly risked his workers’ lives in service of an ambitious construction schedule,” said District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr in a press release. “In the face of multiple warnings about the perilous conditions he created at 9-19 Ninth Avenue, Cueva personally directed—and then declined to stop—his illegal excavation work, and Carlos Moncayo, a young man working to support his family, perished needlessly as a result. I hope that the justice obtained for his preventable death will galvanize other construction supervisors to prioritize their workers’ safety ahead of expediency and profit.”
New York has seen a significant uptick in safety incidents recently, having reported a 34% increase in injuries in 2015 versus 2014 in September of 2015. After that report was released, the Department of Buildings issued a warning that they would be cracking down on repeat safety offenders. The group also released an “Industry Code of Conduct,” which outlines ethics codes, licensing standards, and abuse of privilege. After this recent conviction and sentencing, it appears that New York was not just barking, they’re backing up their demands with action.
Full Story: DA VANCE: CONSTRUCTION COMPANY FOREMAN SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR DEATH OF WORKER ON SITE | The New York County District Attorney’s Office
9. Hiring Hairdressers, Cooks, and Bellhops to Pose as Safety Officials
As mentioned above, New York has had a rough few years in regards to safety and they’ve taken major steps to crack down on injuries and deaths. In 2014, it was discovered that 2 companies that provide safety inspectors to construction firms were hiring unqualified people, including hairdressers and cooks, off of Craiglist to pose as safety officers. The fraud was discovered after a building inspector noticed a signature on a safety log of a man that had been dead for a year.
One of the company officials involved in the scheme was just sentenced to one to three years in prison and also ordered to pay $610,000 in restitution, according to the New York Post.
Full story: Construction official gets jail-time for safety-inspection scandal | New York Post