Thursday, November 12, 2009

EMB CONTRACTING CORP. (EMB)

DISTRICT ATTORNEY - NEW YORK COUNTY

NEWS RELEASE
November 12, 2009


Contact: Alicia Maxey Greene
212-335-9400
Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced today the indictment of a Queens-based general contracting firm, EMB CONTRACTING CORP., and its principals for defrauding employees out of more than $1 million in unpaid wages and benefits. 

The defendants, EMB CONTRACTING CORP. (EMB), and its former and current de facto president MICHAEL BATALIAS, 65, were indicted on charges of grand larceny and scheme to defraud. Also named in today’s indictment are EMB’s President ELISAVET BATALIAS, 35, who was indicted on charges of scheme to defraud and offering a false instrument for filing, and VASILIKI (a/k/a VICKY) STERGIOU, 44, the office manager, who was indicted on charges of scheme to defraud. The crimes charged in the indictment occurred between April 1, 2007 and December 28, 2008.

The investigation leading to today’s indictment revealed that EMB is a general contracting firm that specializes in large public works contracts.  The criminal conduct outlined in this indictment involves contracts entered into with the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) whereby EMB was the general contractor providing labor in the rehabilitation/construction of 30 public schools throughout New York City.  As provided by the New York State Labor Law, and under the terms of these contracts, EMB was required to pay all of the employees engaged in working on these contracts the prevailing wage and supplemental benefit rate. The Office of the Inspector General for the SCA began investigating EMB after receiving a number of complaints that the firm was not paying employees the required prevailing wage rate, but rather roughly a third to a half of the rate, and was not making appropriate contributions to the union pension fund. The initial investigation provided the District Attorney's Office with probable cause to obtain and execute a search warrant at EMB’s offices in December of 2008. 

The defendants took a number of criminal steps to hide these underpayments from the SCA.  These included creating falsified payroll reports which had no bearing on the real hours worked by the workers.  Sometimes workers who worked were totally omitted, and sometimes workers who did not work were included.  In fact, EMB paid workers by eight hour segments.  Thus if a worker worked 48 hours he got 6 times his daily pay, which ranged from $130 to $240, paid in cash and check combinations.  These amounts were well below the prevailing wage, which during the period charge ranged from about $384 to $408 for 8 hours. Additionally no overtime was paid.  Nonetheless, the payment applications included sworn affidavits by ELISAVET BATALIAS attesting that EMB was paying the required prevailing wages and benefits. STERGIOU administered the cash payroll system and generated cash to give workers “off the books” by cashing EMB checks made out to third persons.
Further investigation revealed that on December 17, 2006, MICHAEL BATALIAS and EMB, in order to avoid detection of the underpayment, removed a worker who was injured on a school project in Fresh Meadows, Queens to EMB’s warehouse in Astoria, Queens and staged the scene so that it would appear as if the accident occurred at the warehouse.  

Defendants, EMB CONTRACTING INC., and MICHAEL BATALIAS have been indicted on one count each of Grand Larceny in the First Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree. ELISAVET BATALIAS and VICKY STERGIOU have been indicted on one count each of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree. ELISAVET BATALIAS was additionally indicted on 11 counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. MICHAEL BATALIAS AND EMB are charged in the same indictment with a second count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree for that conduct.   

Grand Larceny in the First Degree is a class B felony punishable by up to 8⅓ to 25 years in prison. Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree are class E felonies punishable by up to 1⅓ to 4 years in prison.

The defendants were arrested this morning and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in State Supreme Court, Part 1. 

Mr. Morgenthau thanked Barbara DiTata, Inspector General of the SCA, for the assistance of her investigative staff, including Gerard McEnroe, Investigative Counsel, and Investigators James O’Brien, Leroy Callier, and Nick Scicutella.  Mr. Morgenthau also thanked the New York State Insurance Fund Acting Director Francine James and the Division of Confidential Investigation Director Laurence LaPointe. 

Assistant District Attorneys Thomas Mooney and Elizabeth Lederer, Senior Investigative Counsel in the Labor Racketeering Unit, are handling the prosecution under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Michael Scotto, Chief of the Labor Racketeering Unit.  Rackets Investigators Stuart Prakin and Robert Tarwacki assisted with the investigation under the supervision of Senior Rackets Investigator Terry Quinn and Chief Investigator Joseph Pennisi.  Deputy Chief Financial Investigator Michael Kelly also participated in the investigation.

Defendants' Information:

MICHAEL BATALIAS, 4/25/1944
80 Stone Hill Drive East
Manhasset, New York

ELISAVET BATALIAS, 12/28/1973
80 Stone Hill Drive East
Manhasset, New York

VASSILIKI STERGIOU (a/k/a VICKY STERGIOU), 11/7/1964
1701 Tower Drive
Edgewater, New York
EMB CONTRACTING CORP.
24-59 47th Street
Astoria, New York

1 comment:

  1. I myself happen to be one of EMB former employee and have first hand seen and been a victim of long seven day work schedule wit time being shorted on my check....i just didnt know it was to this magnitude and i see there are a couple of defendants names missing that should truly be at the top of the list.

    ReplyDelete

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