We all know how dangerous the construction industry can be, but sometimes there are things going on behind the drywall that are much more dangerous. Here are 6 common and not-so-common ways that contractors have landed themselves in jail.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed in January of 2017 that a construction contractor was charged with paying $1 million in bribes to Atlanta city officials to win government contracts. The contractor at fault was Elvin Mitchell Jr., and he was arraigned on conspiratorial bribery and money laundering charges.
A review of records show that Mitchell’s construction company was involved with a number of large projects around the city of Atlanta, including the courthouse and work at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The airport project contract totaled $480 million for construction management. Officials say that Mitchell and another unnamed individual paid over $1,000,000 to a city official to win the this project and many others.
In August of 2016, Larry Davis, 65, was convicted for fraud charges related to the World Trade Center construction project. His company, DCM Erectors, won contracts to perform work on the Freedom Tower and a nearby transportation center. Davis was supposed to devote tens of millions of dollars to hire minority- and women-owned businesses. Instead he used two minority- or women-owned firms as fronts, paying kickbacks to their principals to sign papers submitted to the Port Authority while the work was actually performed by DCM and another company that had ties to DCM.
3. Criminal negligence
In 2009, four construction workers from Metron Construction died after falling 13 stories from a scaffold. The company was performing work on an apartment building when the scaffold swing broke in half. Only one person was partially attached to a safety line and suffered severe injuries, but unfortunately, the other four died. Vadim Kazenelsen, the project manager, was found guilty of four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily injury. The construction company and the swing stage manufacturer were both heavily fined while Kazenelsen was given jail time.
4. Swindling wages from employees
From 2010 to 2012, the co-owner of an electrical company, Laura Plzak, was shortchanging 22 employees out of $242,000 for work performed. The company, Honda Electric, was the electrical subcontractor for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). A former Honda employee told MnDOT that he was paid only $17 an hour instead of the promised $58.50 an hour under the prevailing wage law. The time sheets and pay stubs showed that Plzak had been lowering the number of hours her employees worked to falsely present a higher rate of pay. Plzak admitted to falsifying payment forms that she submitted to government offices.
5. Assaulting a supervisor with equipment
A confrontation started between Erick Cox and his boss, Perry Byrd at a construction site. A third party told officials that he saw Cox and Byrd arguing and while operating the front-end loader, Cox purposefully dumped multiple loads of dirt on Byrd. Once Byrd was partially trapped under the dirt, Cox grabbed a 6-foot aluminum level and repeatedly hit Byrd in the head. Byrd lost consciousness. Cox was eventually stopped and Byrd sent to the hospital. He suffered from a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain.
6. Hiring unqualified workers to pose as qualified workers
A construction official was sentenced to three years in prison for his part in a citywide scam that included hiring hairdressers, cooks, and bellhops to impersonate licensed safety managers. The manager of Avanti Building Consultants, Richard Marini, was one of several officials indicted for sending unlicensed people to impersonate safety managers at large, high-rise projects. Marini was caught texting a subordinate where he directed him to forge two days’ worth of safety records. Along with jail time, he was ordered to pay $610,000 in restitution.