A major crackdown on wage theft has resulted in charges for several local construction companies. NY1's Gene Apodaca has more on this statewide initiative.
Two top executives from City Metro Corp. appeared in court Monday, pleading not guilty to grand larceny and fraud charges.
The company accused of illegally withholding $240,000 in wages earned by 45 construction workers at a Midtown hotel when it was built two years ago.
The company was one of seven cited in a crackdown on wage theft.
"Every day, many of these laborers, who risk their lives doing dangerous jobs on construction sites, also have to wonder what they'll actually be paid for the dangerous work they're asked to do," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
Vance announced criminal charges against the companies for allegedly shortchanging the wages of hundreds of workers.
The companies allegedly wrote bad checks to the workers or simply failed to give them any checks at all — crimes, officials said, that disproportionately affect immigrant workers.
Victor Palaguachi, who came to the United States from Ecuador, told NY1 that he was cheated out of two months-worth of pay while working a job in Brooklyn.
"It feels horrible, because you work and you count on that money and you work because you need the money," Palaguachi said through a translator.
"It goes to show that with type of collaboration, we can expose some of the nastier, some of the bad actors," said Manuel Castro, the executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, which advocates for immigrant workers.
Officials said city and state authorities began a crackdown after the death of Carlos Moncayo, a young undocumented laborer from Ecuador who was buried alive in an unsecure trench two years ago.
That investigation revealed that his employer had submitted false information about its payroll. It was later forced to pay back more than $460,000 in back wages.
Officials said through their investigation they've found that when companies cheat on wages, they cheat in other places.
"When you have an issue with wages, this impacts their workers compensation insurance policy, this impacts the ability of the claimant to actually claim unemployment," said Hildalyn Colon, the Task Force Coordinator for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
If convicted on the charges, each company faces high fines and potential jail time.