A construction-crane company admitted Tuesday that it paid off a top New York City inspector to shortcut safety inspections and licensing exams in a case that helped heighten scrutiny of the towering machines that help build a city of high-rises.
Nu-Way Crane Service Inc. and company official Michael Sackaris pleaded guilty to bribery, acknowledging they paid the inspector more than $10,000 to fake results for inspections that were never conducted and to certify that Nu-Way workers had passed crane operator tests at least one of them never took. That employee, Michael Pascalli, pleaded guilty to a false-filing charge.
The city inspector, James Delayo, pleaded guilty previously to receiving bribes.
They were charged in the wake of two deadly collapses of another company's cranes in 2008. The Nu-Way case involved smaller cranes and wasn't linked to the collapses, but it contributed to questions about the city's oversight of the rigs. The city has since added crane inspectors, increased training requirements and changed how licensing exams are given to some crane operators.
While the Nu-Way scheme wasn't linked to any danger, city Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said the participants showed "contempt for public integrity and safety."
Copiague, N.Y.-based Nu-Way "conferred numerous bribes" on Delayo from 2000 to 2008, company lawyer Charles Horn said in a statement read in court. The payouts ranged from $200 to $3,000 apiece, prosecutors have said.
Sackaris, 50, and Pascalli, 25, gave only brief answers to a Manhattan judge's questions. Their lawyers also read statements detailing the crimes.
Sackaris' plea deal calls for a prison term of two to six years, while Pascalli has been promised probation. The company is expected to pay a $10,000 fine.
Defense lawyers said the company's cranes had been re-inspected and declared safe. The city Buildings Department had no immediate information on any reinspections.
The company had found the original inspections hard to arrange, Sackaris' lawyer, Ronald G. Russo, said outside court.
"(Bribery) was not the proper way to do it, but, happily, there wasn't a nut out of place on the cranes," he said.
Sackaris' wife, Lisa Recenello, is listed as Nu-Way's chief executive in state records. The Manhattan district attorney called Sackaris the company's de facto owner, but defense lawyers said he was only a manager.
Delayo, 61, started working for the city Department of Buildings in 1982, rising to become its acting head of crane inspections in 2008. He retired later that year. He's also expected to get a two- to six-year sentence.
His sentencing is set for June 1; the others are to be sentenced July 13.
A crane-rigging contractor has been charged with manslaughter in one of the collapses while a crane owner and a former mechanic face manslaughter charges in the other. Besides Delayo, another former crane inspector faces charges including tampering with public records after being accused of lying about examining one of the fallen cranes 11 days before it collapsed.
All have pleaded not guilty.