New York Construction Report staff writer
Three contractors have been charged in the death of a construction worker at a Bronx building site in 2019, and a fourth man was charged with fraud in relation to the incident that allegedly resulted from “blatant disregard for building safety codes and worker’s protections,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark and the New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber announced this week.
A 46 year-old Ecuadoran immigrant was crushed by 1,000 pounds of debris in an “egregiously dangerous building site: and a joint investigation found “builders falsified credentials/permits and flouted safety.
“The horrendous death of Segundo Manuel Huerta Mayancela—buried under cinderblocks and metal sheets–was entirely preventable,” Clark said in a statement. “The construction site at 94 East 208th St. was a deathtrap waiting to happen.
“An unqualified company allegedly used fraudulent credentials, ignored oversight requirements and building code, and built a dangerously unstable structure. Workers are not expendable. Along with our partners at the Department of Investigation, we will hold anyone accountable for putting workers at risk in an already hazardous profession.”
The death of Mayancela , an Ecuadoran immigrant, led to the passage of Carlos’ Law, which creates greater accountability for tragic and avoidable injury to workers at New York construction sites and increases the penalties for criminal corporate liability for the death or serious physical injury of an employee, a felony or misdemeanor, by a fine of up to $500,000.
“The city’s buildings codes are written to support and advance safety on construction sites,” Commissioner Strauber said. “As charged, these defendants failed to follow the law and to carry out their most basic responsibilities, including to show up in person to ensure safety standards were being met. “These failures resulted in dangerous conditions that could have been prevented, and ultimately led to the death of one worker, and injuries to five others.
“As these charges show, there are grave consequences for those who would treat the City’s construction safety regulations as merely optional.”
District Attorney Clark identified the defendants as Augustine Adesanmi, 67, owner of Favored Design and Construction, engaged in the actual construction; Akhlak Choudhary, 54, owner of Pioneer General Construction, general contractor for the project; Abazi Okoro, 66, owner of Linzi Construction, construction superintendent at site; and Fatos Mustafaj, 64.
Adesanmi is charged with second-degree manslaughter, and he, Choudhary and Okoro are charged with criminally negligent homicide; Adesanmi and Mustafaj are charged with second degree grand larceny and Choudhary is charged with four counts of offering a false instrument for filing.
Adesanmi, Okoro and Mustafaj were arraigned Apr. 11, before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Guy Mitchell and were put on supervised release.due back in court June 8. Choudhary has not yet been arrested.
According to the investigation, in early 2019, Atin Batra entered into a formal agreement to pay $1.2 million to Favored Design to construct a four-story, eight-unit residential building on a vacant lot he had purchased at 94 E.208th Street.
Adesanmi and Mustafaj allegedly claimed that Favored Design was qualified to engage in new construction and would file necessary permits and proof of insurance. Favored Design did not have qualifications under the New York City building code for construction of a new building, so they allegedly enlisted Choudhary, a qualified contractor, to obtain a permit. Four notarized documents containing false statements were filed in Choudhary’s name to obtain the building permit, including a forged insurance policy for the worksite.
Okoro, a former employee of the NYC Department of Design and Construction, allegedly was paid $3,000 for the use of his credentials, and allegedly never visited the site.
During the spring and summer of 2019, work continued at the premises without a qualified general contractor or construction superintendent monitoring the work. Adesanmi was the designated “competent person” and was supposed to be present at all times; on the day of the collapse, he was not there.
According to the investigation, on Aug. 27, 2019, workers were bringing cinder blocks and bricks from the second floor onto a work platform at the third floor. It was made of sheets of metal that were placed on top of metal joists. The joists were not properly secured to the structure.
Workers brought nearly a ton of material onto the platform when the unsecured joists fell forward and failed, causing the platform, the workers on the third floor and building materials on the front half of the building to fall onto the workers below.
Several workers received serious injuries and Mayancela died as a result of blunt force trauma with crushing injuries.