Attorney General James Announces Criminal Conviction of Staten Island Construction Firm Over Wage Theft and Unemployment Fraud

Premier Builders and Owners Michael Murphy and James Murphy Jr. Ordered to Pay Over $580,000 in Restitution for Failing to Pay Workers Overtime Wages and Unemployment Insurance Contributions

Attorney General James Announces Criminal Conviction of Staten Island Construction Firm Over Wage Theft and Unemployment Fraud

By AG NY

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the convictions of Premier Builders MN LLC (Premier), a Staten Island-based construction company, and two of its owners, Michael Murphy and James Murphy, Jr., for withholding overtime wages from employees, and for failing to pay unemployment contributions to the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) Unemployment Insurance fund dating back to 2013. The defendants are required to pay $580,000 in restitution and more than $150,000 will go to employees of Premier.

“New York’s construction workers, who risk their lives building our communities, are often cheated out of their fair pay by greedy employers,” said Attorney General James. “These convictions serve as a clear warning: Any employer that attempts to exploit workers will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law. My office will continue to do everything in our power to ensure no New Yorker is cheated out of their hard-earned money and that those who steal off the backs of their workers are held accountable.”

Premier Builders was convicted of two class E felonies — one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree and one count of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree. Michael Murphy and James Murphy, Jr. were each convicted of one count of Failure to Pay Wages, a misdemeanor. As part of their convictions, the defendants have paid $300,000 in restitution to date and signed confessions of judgment for an additional $280,000. The defendants have also paid $151,915 in restitution to be paid out to 76 employees who were owed overtime wages between the end of 2013 and early 2015. The defendants paid an additional $148,085 to the New York State Unemployment Insurance fund. The sentencing court has entered confessions of judgment against Premier Builders and its principals for an additional $289,695 in unemployment insurance contributions owed to the state.

A joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and DOL revealed that Premier failed to accurately report to DOL’s Unemployment Insurance Division the number of employees working between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2016, thereby falsifying their New York State Quarterly Combined Withholding, Wage Reporting, and Unemployment Insurance Return forms — resulting in significant underpayment of unemployment contributions. Additionally, between November 1, 2013 and March 31, 2015, Premier paid its employees an hourly wage rate, ranging between $15 and $30 per hour. However, when employees worked in excess of 40 hours in any given workweek, Premier failed to pay them the proper rate of time-and-one-half the regularly hourly rate for overtime, and instead, only paid them a straight time rate. 

This case was investigated as part of the Construction Wage Theft Task Force, which is a joint, statewide effort among law enforcement agencies focusing on combating corruption and crime within the construction industry. The Attorney General’s Office thanks DOL for their cooperation in this initiative. 

“Let this serve as a reminder to unscrupulous employers everywhere: Unemployment Insurance fraud will not be tolerated in New York state,” said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “There is no excuse to steal from a system that is helping New Yorkers during their greatest time of need, especially during a global health pandemic. I thank the Attorney General’s office and our many law enforcement partners for joining us in our ongoing fight to eradicate fraud.”

This case was investigated by Special Audit and Enforcement District Manager Louis Adinolfi, under the supervision of Sengan N’Jie, of DOL. From the Attorney General’s Office, the case was investigated by former Detective Investigator Ismael Hernandez of the Major Investigations Unit, under the supervision of Supervising Detective Sylvia Rivera and Deputy Chief Antoine J. Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer S. Michael, under the supervision of Labor Bureau Criminal Section Chief Richard Balletta, Labor Bureau Chief Karen Cacace, Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Chief Joseph G. D’Arrigo. The Labor Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. Both the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the Investigations Bureau are part of the Division for Criminal Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado. Both the Division for Social Justice and Division for Criminal Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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