New York Officials Battle Wage Theft in Construction Industry (NY)

DEC. 6, 2017

For months, Ariel Ortega’s paychecks would bounce when he went to deposit them at his bank each Friday. He says he never saw the promised overtime pay for his extra hours on Saturdays remodeling a 12-floor apartment building in Brooklyn.

Mr. Ortega considered quitting. But when he voiced concerns, his boss, Michael Stathakis, would grow agitated and threaten not to pay the remainder of what he was owed if he quit, Mr. Ortega said.

“It was December, and it was cold, so it would be hard to get another construction job,” Mr. Ortega, who is owed hundreds of dollars in wages and overtime pay, said in Spanish. “I had to stick through it.”

Mr. Ortega, 30, was vindicated last week when his employer, Whisk Remodeling Corp., owned by Mr. Stathakis, pleaded guilty to fraud, admitting he failed to pay Mr. Ortega and dozens of other workers, many of them immigrants, more than $90,000 in wages.

Mr. Ortega’s case is not unique – and prosecutors in New York have taken note.

District attorneys in all five boroughs of New York City and in other counties, in coordination with state agencies, have ratcheted up efforts against wage theft in the construction industry. A string of indictments this year detailed more than $2.5 million in unpaid wages for more than 400 construction workers in Manhattan and beyond, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said at a news conference on Monday.

(Read More)