A long-term New York City (NYC) landscaping contractor has been indicted for evading more than $1 million in insurance premiums while working on contracts for municipal road and sidewalk repair.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and NYC Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Margaret Garnett said on Sept. 28 that Dragonetti Brothers Landscaping, Nursery and Florist (DBLNF), and D.B. Demoliton, Inc.based in Brooklyn have been charged. Also indicted were the company presidents Nicholas Dragonetti, 48, and Vito Dragonetti, 52, the DA’s office said in a statement.
The defendants have been charged with various counts of Insurance Fraud, Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, and Penalties for Fraudulent Practices under New York State’s Workers’ Compensation Law. The indictment follows a joint investigation led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Construction Fraud Task Force and DOI, with assistance from the New York City Business Integrity Commission, the statement says.
“When companies evade insurance premiums, they put their workers at risk of not receiving adequate insurance to cover on-the-job injuries,” said District Attorney Vance. “Inadequate coverage is a particularly concerning prospect in the construction industry, where workers put their bodies on the line.
“As alleged in this case, the defendants devalued their workers’ livelihoods by insuring them for lower-risk work while simultaneously sending them to carry out demolition projects and operate heavy machinery. We are dedicated to stopping fraud in every corner of the construction industry, and thank DOI and BIC for their assistance in this case, as well as their ongoing partnership.”
Commissioner Garnett said: “These defendant contractors thought shortchanging New York City construction workers by undercutting their insurance coverage was a quick way to pad their profits, according to the charges.
“But a tipster helped authorities expose and stop this corruption in its tracks. DOI commends and thanks individuals who step forward and report wrongdoing. DOI also continues to work with its law enforcement partners to expose crooked contractors who exploit their workers for personal gain.”
Since 1998, DBLNF has secured more than a hundred NYC contracts for parks landscaping and maintenance, as well as for sidewalk reconstruction and pedestrian crosswalk ramp construction. Sidewalk and ramp construction workers have higher-risk jobs than landscapers or florists which include demolishing and replacing pavement and ramps, and accordingly, a higher workers’ compensation insurance classification.
According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, between 2017 and 2019, DBLNF intentionally misclassified numerous employees on its applications to the New York State Insurance Fund for workers’ compensation insurance in order to avoid paying the required premiums.
DBLNF bid on and won contracts for excavation, sidewalk reconstruction, and pedestrian ramp replacement for residential blocks throughout the City totaling millions of dollars, and falsely classified 217 laborers, foremen, and heavy-equipment operators as florists, office workers, or sales representatives. As a result, DBLNF evaded more than $1 million in insurance premiums.
During the same time period, D.B. Demo also misclassified several workers in NYSIF paperwork, claiming the individuals were office workers while simultaneously listing them as commercial drivers in paperwork filed with BIC, the agency that oversees the private carting industry in New York City. In total, D.B. Demo evaded more than $81,000 in insurance premiums.