Lga Contractor Stiffed Workers

Jailed; Must Also Pay $800,000 Restitution

The owner of an upstate construction company was jailed on Friday, July 13 for underpaying workers he managed for construction projects at LaGuardia Airport, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced.

William Mazzella, who paid workers less than half of the wages required by law for work at the Queens airport on behalf of Decora Construction, LLC, a Mahopac, N.Y. masonry subcontractor, was sentenced by Judge James F. Reitz of the County Court of Putnam County to four months in jail. He must also repay the workers $800,000 in resti- tution.

“Paying workers less than the law requires and then lying about it in official documents is not a mistake or a paperwork problem-it is criminal behavior. Mr. Mazzella and the owners of this company will now be held accountable for breaking the law and ripping off hardworking New York- ers,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “When contractors bid on a public project involving taxpayer dollars, they have to play by the rules. These employers did not, and now they have felony criminal convictions.”

According to the felony complaint filed in the Mazzella case, Decora Construction operated as a masonry subcontractor from an office in Mahopac, and performed work on two public construction projects at LaGuardia Airport in 2009. Decora Construction submitted certified payroll reports to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns LaGuardia Airport, stating that all workers were paid legally required prevailing wages of between $51.54 and $70.54 per hour.

However, Mazzella, the on-site superintendent of Decora Construction, actually paid the workers at rates of between $18 and $25 per hour.

Mazzella was indicted Mar. 28 on two counts of second-degree grand larceny, one count of violating labor law, one count of falsifying business records and one count of offering a false instrument for filing.

In addition to charges related to the LaGuardia Airport projects, the indictment charges that from on or about Aug. 2, 2008 to on or about May 6, 2010, Mazzella committed larceny by failing to pay the prevailing wages to workers on a Bureau of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) project in the Bronx. On May 29, Mazzella pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny and one count of violating labor law.

In related charges, two co-owners of the company were each sentenced to five years’ probation.

Francisco Tavares, an owner of the company, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree grand larceny, while fellow co-owner Aurora Perreira (Tavares’ ex-wife) pleaded guilty to one count of offering a false instrument for filing.

As a condition of their probation, the duo may not work on public construction projects in New York State for five years.

Restitution totaling $800,000 will be made to the underpaid workers through money withheld by HPD and the Port Authority against contract payments.

This case was investigated by the Investigators Robert Ward and Edward Kennedy, under the supervision of Jeffrey Schaffler Supervisor, Confidential Investigations, of the Office of the Inspector General of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Labor Monitoring Unit of the HPD also assisted the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Meredith McGowan, under the supervision of Felice Sontupe, section chief, Terri Gerstein, chief of the Labor Bureau, Janet Sabel, executive deputy attorney general for Social Justice, and Nancy Hoppock, executive deputy attorney general for Criminal Justice.

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