By Bill Parry
An Astoria contractor was found to have cheated three immigrant workers out of $735,000 in prevailing wages and benefits by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Astoria General Contracting Corp. has been debarred from doing work with the city and state for five years related to its underpayment of three Latino workers who repaired and installed metal rolling doors or gates, grills and fences at various public schools around the city.
Astoria General, located at 35-34 31st St., must pay more than $1.1 million in wages and benefits plus interest and civil penalties.
“My office has zero tolerance for unscrupulous contractors who attempt to cheat workers out of their rightfully owed prevailing wages and benefits,” Stringer said. “Paying workers a fair wage is not a choice, it’s the law. Three men are going to get the wages they deserve and another contractor has learned the hard way that we take our enforcement of the prevailing wage very seriously.”
The case of the three workers was originally referred to Stringer’s Bureau of Labor Law by the city Department of Education. The prevailing wage order was issued in September following an 11-day trial at the city Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
At the trial, surveillance video and security and visitor logs were reviewed and it was determined that the firm had falsified certified payroll records by completely omitting two of the employees and reporting payment of prevailing wages and benefits to the third. Stringer’s office found that Astoria General paid its three employees salaries ranging from $800 to $1,500 per week or in a gross check.
To date, Stringer’s office has collected $226,000 on behalf of the workers by withholding money from Astoria General’s contracts with the city. Owner Dimitrios Koutsoukos could not be reached for comment.
Since January 2014, Stringer’s office has assessed nearly $10 million in unpaid wages and interest and over $1 million in penalty money against private contractors that violated New York’s Labor Law. The bureau has also debarred over 25 contractors for egregious conduct.
In addition, since announcing in August that his office held $3.7 million in unclaimed prevailing wages and benefits to workers, 21 individuals have submitted proof of claim forms of which 13 have been paid nearly $158,000 in unpaid wages plus interest.
Stringer’s office continues to search for workers who have failed to claim their prevailing wage awards.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr