FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 14, 2015
City Contractor Sentenced for Stealing More Than $300,000 From Employees
DA Thompson and Comptroller Stringer Work Together to Ensure Over One Hundred Workers
From Traffic Moving Systems Receive Back Pay Under State’s Prevailing Wage Law
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and City Comptroller Scott Stringer today announced that a contractor providing moving services for New York City has been sentenced for stealing over $300,000 from hundreds of employees in violation of the State’s prevailing wage law.
District Attorney Thompson said, “This defendant lied to the City and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his workers. He now forfeits his right to obtain any contracts with the City and will pay these workers the hard-earned money they deserve.”
Comptroller Stringer said, “We have zero tolerance for City contractors that pocket taxpayer dollars instead of paying their employees the wages and benefits required by law. We will continue to work with DA Thompson and all of our partners in law enforcement to ensure that hard-working New Yorkers are protected from bad actors.”
The defendant, Robert Sardina, a.k.a., Roberto Sardina, a.k.a., Robert Sardinia, 64, of 62 Old Chester Road, Goshen, NY, and his company, Traffic Moving Systems, pleaded guilty on March 20, 2015 to one count of grand larceny in the second-degree and scheme to defraud in the first-degree. Both defendants also pleaded guilty to failure to secure the payment of compensation for more than five employees within a twelve month period, a violation of the Workers’ Compensation Law, and willful failure to pay contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, in violation of the State’s labor law.
Sardina was sentenced today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino to a conditional discharge. As part of his plea, Sardina agreed to an Order by Comptroller Stringer providing over $300,000 in restitution for back wages to the workers out of monies withheld by the Comptroller. Traffic Moving Systems and Sardina are also not allowed to bid or be awarded any public building service contracts or subcontracts with the State or City for five years.
This investigation began after employees of Traffic Moving Systems submitted a complaint about their wages to Comptroller Stringer. Under the state prevailing wage law, the Comptroller has the authority to set and enforce prevailing wage and benefit rates for contractors on New York City public works projects and public building service contracts.
The District Attorney said that, in August 2010, Sardina, as president of Traffic Moving Systems, submitted a proposal to the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services to provide moving services to all New York City agencies. The City awarded Traffic Moving Systems a contract from September 1, 2011 to August 31, 2016 worth $1,989,880.
Traffic Moving Systems provided moving services to a number of city agencies including the Fire Department, the Administration for Children’s Services, the Department of Finance, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Human Resources Administration, and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. Traffic Moving Systems performed a number of these moves in Brooklyn.
According to the investigation, Sardina falsified certified payroll reports he submitted to the City for payment, claiming that he paid his workers the prevailing wage. At the time the investigation began, the combined prevailing wage and benefit rate for laborers (those who move the furniture) was $21.78 per hour and $32.67 per hour for overtime. The combined rate at the time for tractor-trailer drivers was $27.21 per hour and $40.82 per hour for overtime.
The investigation also showed that Sardina billed the City at the prevailing wage rates but paid the employees lower amounts – usually between $12 to $20 an hour – and pocketed the rest. He never paid for overtime, rarely paid the workers all the wages owed to them for that pay period and persuaded employees to keep working with promises of future pay.
The City paid the defendants over $1.5 million into an account controlled by Sardina who took out large amounts of cash for his own use rather than to pay the workers. Sardina lives in a twelve bedroom house. He owned multiple luxury cars, including a 1999 Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, a 2000 Mercedes Benz S Class and a 2004 Maybach Series 57.
Because Sardina underreported the number of employees at the company, Traffic Moving Systems obtained workers’ compensation insurance at a fraudulently reduced rate and did not make required payments to the New York State Unemployment Insurance Fund as required by law.
If you believe you have been underpaid prevailing wages or benefits on a New York City public works project or public building service contract, please call the Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law at 212-669-4443. If you believe you have been a victim of Labor Fraud, such as wage theft or retaliation, please call the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Labor Frauds Unit at 718-250-3770.
The case was investigated by Detective Investigators Kevin McAleese and Roger Archer of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, under the supervision of Supervising Detective Investigator Robert Addonizio and Richard Bellucci, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau. Supervising Attorney Michael Turilli, Investigator Jose Quiroz and Director of Outreach Michelle Centeno performed the civil investigation for the Comptroller’s Office under the supervision of Constantine Kokkoris, Chief of the Bureau of Labor Law.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Ugoeze Ukomadu and Meredith McGowan, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Labor Frauds Unit, under the supervision of Felice Sontupe, Chief of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.