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Contractor at JFK stole employees’ wages: AG

An employer with a contract for work at John F. Kennedy International Airport (background) has been arrested for allegedly stealing wages owed to his employees.
TimesLedger Newspapers

A contractor at John F. Kennedy International Airport was arrested last week for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 in wages owed to his union employees and concealing the haul in the bank account of a Florida company he ran, authorities said.

Leonid Fridman, owner of the Brooklyn-based Millennium Commercial Corp., had received a contract from the Port Authority to perform tile work in 2009 and 2010 during the renovation of the airport’s TWA Flight Center.

Under the terms of the contract and state labor laws, Fridman was required to pay more than $50 an hour to his Laborers and Mason Tenders employees and more than $70 an hour to employees in the Tile Setters union.

According to the state attorney general’s office, Fridman paid his workers the prevailing wages and then allegedly forced them to cash their checks at his bank and kick back their earnings. The employees ended up with only $10 to $30 an hour for their work, the AG’s office said.

To cover his trail, Fridman allegedly filed false, certified payroll reports and hid more than $100,000 of the ill-gotten cash into the account of a Florida company he controlled, according to the AG’s office.

“Mr. Fridman not only stole state dollars from his own workers, but he demanded kickbacks and laundered money to cover his tracks.” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “My office will continue to take action, including filing criminal charges, against employers who violate New York’s labor laws, steal taxpayer dollars and violate the public trust.”

Fridman, 60, was arraigned Friday and faces charges of grand larceny and money laundering as well as 52 counts of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.

The state’s prevailing wage law requires government contractors to pay their employees wages comparable to local norms.

Port Authority Inspector General Robert Van Etten said the arrest will put contractors on notice that the agency will not tolerate wage fraud.

“Companies doing business with municipalities, state agencies and authorities are legally bound to pay their employees the fair and prevailing wage. In this case, the defendant chose to enrich himself at the expense of his own workers by creating an elaborate fraud to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the funds,” he said.

“The Port Authority Office of the Inspector General and its law enforcement partners will aggressively identify, investigate and bring to justice those who corrupt the integrity of the construction industry.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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