The Real Deal New York

Troubled construction company accused of stealing $40K in worker wages

CRV Precast Construction allegedly stole another $410K from state
By Kathryn Brenzel | July 25, 2018 06:30PM

1918 First Avenue and Cyrus Vance (Credit: Google Maps and Getty Images)

A New Jersey-based construction company allegedly stole $40,000 in wages from workers and bilked another $410,000 from New York State’s insurance fund.

CRV Precast Construction and six of its employees were indicted on Wednesday on charges that they misclassified workers in order to pay less in wages and insurance premiums, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday. The company, which was hired to do steel and concrete work at SKA Marin’s affordable housing project at 1918 First Avenue, allegedly stole $40,000 from at least four ironworkers by misclassifying them as concrete laborers. When workers complained, they were told they could quit, according to authorities.

Because the project — a former medical facility, known as Draper Hall, that was being converted into an affordable housing complex — was federally funded, CRV was required to pay workers the prevailing rate of wage and benefits. Such rates are based on the kind of work they perform, and ironworkers are at a higher pay grade.

The company also managed to underpay the New York State Insurance Fund by $410,000 by falsifying payroll and misclassifying the workers, since laborers are insured at a lower rate, according to the indictment. Elizandro Ramos was among the workers whose role was allegedly misrepresented to NYSIF. Ramos fell to his death in November 2016 while working on a construction site in Queens for CRV. At the time, Crain’s reported that it was the second death for the contractor. Prior to that incident, the company was fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the death of a worker who collapsed while working at 149 Kent Avenue in the extreme heat.

An attorney for CRV said the charges are “unfounded.” A message left for the company’s owner, Luis Rivera, who is named in the indictment, didn’t answer a message seeking comment.

The district attorney’s office has been cracking down on construction fraud and unsafe work sites over the last few years. Earlier this month SSC High Rise Construction pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, stemming from the death of a worker at 161 Maiden Lane. The company was also accused of stealing $517,000 in wages for overtime work between August 2011 and September 2017 and to under-reporting nearly $2 million in payroll in order to pay a lower insurance premium.