A Manhattan general contractor convicted of manslaughter this year in the cave-in death of immigrant worker Carlos Moncayo refused to fund construction-safety public service ads and was sentenced instead to pay a $10,000 fine on Tuesday.
The lawyer for Harco Construction LLC, owned by Kenneth Hart, said he is appealing the verdict and feels public service ads would be an admission of guilt, but a prosecutor said the defiance shows the inadequacy of state laws, which make a $10,000 fine the maximum corporate sentence.
Prosecutor Diana Florence said Harco’s refusal “exposes another hole in the system,” and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. would pursue legislation in Albany so the punishment can be more than a fine “when employers wreak havoc with the lives of workers.”
“For companies like Harco Construction, $10,000 is Monopoly money,” Vance said in a statement after the sentencing. “When members of the State Legislature reconvene next month, we urge them to raise the maximum penalty for corporate conduct leading to death or serious physical injury.”
Moncayo, 22, an undocumented Ecuadorean laborer working for Long Island-based excavation subcontractor Sky Materials, died working in a 14-foot-deep unshored trench that collapsed at a Ninth Avenue site in April 2015.
Harco site supervisor Alfonso Prestia was sentenced to community service after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide. Sky Materials has not been tried yet. Its foreman was sentenced to a year in jail after a conviction for criminally negligent homicide.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Kirke Bartley said in July that he hoped “some good” would come from giving Harco the opportunity to avoid a fine by paying for public service ads, but acknowledged Tuesday that if the company refused, a fine was his only choice.
Members of Moncayo’s family, in a statement released by Vance’s office, said they were “disappointed” with Harco’s refusal.
“Harco and other construction companies cannot get away with the death of their workers and especially when they could have [been] prevented or avoided,” the statement said. “The law has to change to make sure that the company pay for their actions, protect workers and their families.”