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Firm Pleads Guilty in Deadly NYC Fall

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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The company that was overseeing a Manhattan construction project where a worker died last fall has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, SSC High Rise Inc. pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter charges in relation to the death of Juan Chonillo last September. The company also admitted to wage theft and insurance fraud, which was revealed in the investigation of the accident.

What Happened

Last September, Juan Chonillo, of Corona, New York, fell through a hole in a Lower Manhattan site, plummeting 29 stories to his death.

The DA’s report says that when the accident occurred, an SSC foreman had ordered workers to move a scaffolding platform while workers were still on the unit. The platform became stuck, and Chonillo unhooked his harness in order to attempt to fix the platform. The platform began shaking, causing Chonillo to fall.

As part of a plea agreement (which includes the theft and fraud), SSC will pay $842,000 in restitution and a $10,000 corporate fine. In terms of the wage fraud, the company was accused of stealing $517,000 in overtime wages from August 2011 and September 2017 and underreporting nearly $2 million in payroll.

“SSC High Rise stole half a million dollars from vulnerable workers, and then robbed Juan Chonillo of his life,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance. “It is unthinkable that after a preventable tragedy like the death of Chonillo—a father of five—the company faces a maximum penalty of just $10,000.

“This is pennies on the dollar compared to the potential profits on a high-rise construction job in a booming real estate market. My office and our partners will continue pursuing criminal cases against companies that endanger and defraud their workers, but meaningful, practical deterrence—in the form of higher corporate penalties for killing and maiming workers—is the only way that New York State can end these dangerous and unlawful practices that put vulnerable New Yorkers’ lives at risk.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Lawsuits; North America; Safety

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