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Multimillion Dollar Payroll Scheme Busted in New York

A construction executive in New York is charged with underreporting his payroll so that he could reap $2 million in insurance premium breaks.

Prosecutors in Manhattan said Michael Cholowsky and his company allegedly concealed more than $3 million in payroll resulting in a fraudulent premium reduction over the course of a year starting in April of 2014.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office released a statement saying that the “indictment stems from an investigation into a construction site fatality that occurred last year at the former location of Pastis restaurant in the Meatpacking District. In April 2015, a 22-year-old worker was killed when an improperly secured trench collapsed and fatally crushed the victim.

The defendants in the related case are charged with Manslaughter in the Second Degree and Criminally Negligent Homicide, among other charges, and include SKY, the company’s on-site foreman, WILMER CUEVA, and several others accused of failing to heed and address unsafe work conditions, contributing to the work site cave-in and death of a worker.”

“In the construction industry, a lax approach to following proper procedures may be characteristic of a much more dangerous disregard for workers’ safety,” Vance said.

“Dishonest business practices hinder oversight and create potentially life-threatening hazards for workers and residents,” he said. “Last year, my Office and our partners announced the indictment of several individuals and companies in connection with a tragic and foreseeable casualty that occurred as a result of the indicted defendants’ alleged negligence. In today’s case, one of the same companies and its owner are charged with falsifying information about the number of workers it employed, as well as their salaries.”

The New York Daily News reported that Cholowsky’s legal problems are piling up:

The crooked businessman is also accused of filing false documents with the Business Integrity Commission, claiming Sky Materials Corp. employed under 20 people when the real number was closer to 150, authorities said.

The fraud was uncovered during an investigation into the April 6 death of construction worker Carlos Moncayo, 22, who was crushed when an improperly secured pit collapsed.

Sky Materials Corp foreman Wilmer Cueva, 53, and another supervisor were previously charged with manslaughter for refusing to shut down the Ninth Avenue site even after an engineer warned them of the danger.