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New York construction firms accused of safety scam

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 2, 2014 at 6:18 pm •  Published: July 2, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Two construction safety companies dispatched cooks, hairdressers, bellhops and musicians to sign off as licensed safety experts — one of them dead — on inspections at dozens of high-rise sites, authorities said Wednesday.

Flouting a city law that requires a private-sector site safety manager to spend at least two hours a day checking everything from ladders to firefighting pipes, the companies hired unqualified relatives and others, gave them the names of 10 safety managers and had them sign more than 400 daily safety logs at about 40 building sites, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and city Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said.

No one was physically hurt because of the scheme, but proper inspections later found blocked exits, torn safety netting and other potentially perilous lapses at some sites, the authorities said.

Having "unqualified individuals fabricating that they inspected sites" was a disaster waiting to happen, Vance said. The case is prompting tighter oversight of safety managers' documentation.

Avanti Building Consultants Inc., NYCB Engineering Group, Avanti leaders Richard Marini and Richard Sfraga and NYCB Vice President Kishowar Pervez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to grand larceny and other charges, as did four men accused of signing the logs.

Pervez denies the charges and will fight them in court, said his lawyer, Marc Agnifilo. Lawyers for Avanti and the other executives declined to comment.

Site safety managers are supposed to keep tabs on safety in between visits from city Department of Buildings inspectors, who spot-check their logs. Construction firms and building owners have to hire a safety manager at any exterior work on a building taller than 14 stories. The managers generally must have several years of experience, take courses and pass a city-administered exam, authorities said.

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