In some cases, executives at Avanti Building Consultants are accused of hiring day hires off Craigslist and other websites. In some cases, the company allegedly had those hires use the name of a dead building inspector in order to pull off the scam, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said Wednesday.
Officials allege Avanti and the separate NYCB Engineering group committed fraud at more than 40 construction sites that were at least 15 stories high. As part of the fraud, some of the bogus inspectors logged numerous work days at several different sites, Vance said.
The public was allegedly at risk because certified on-site safety managers were never put in place to ensure safety netting, scaffolding or safety rails were put in place.
Marc Peters, head of the city's Department of Investigation, said no one died or was injured as a result of the fraud but the risk to the public was serious.
Richard Sfraga, co-founder of Avanti, and Kishowar Pervez, vice president of NYCB engineering, were charged with fraud and larceny. Instead of paying a real inspector $100 an hour, a bellhop or short-order cook would be dispatched to do an inspection for $20 per hour, investigators allege.
Several fake inspectors dubbed "interns" or "runners" by the companies were charged as well.
Investigators said a routine check by a buildings department inspector on exterior work being done at a building on East 90th Street led to the discovery that safety logs were signed and certified by Michael A. Hearty even though he had been dead for more than a month.
That discovery led to a broad DOI review of more than 400 sites where over 80 violations were found. Buildings department inspectors have since reinspected all the sites in question to try to ensure all safety issues have been remedied.
The buildings were co-op boards or general contractors were allegedly duped include buildings on Columbia, Broad, East 44th, East 79th and West 43 streets, Lexington, Amsterdam and Park avenues and Gramercy Park North.
Lawyers for the companies and the defendants declined comment at court Wednesday.