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LI subcontractor pleads guilty in fatal trench cave-in case

Construction worker Carlos Moncayo, 22, was killed in

Construction worker Carlos Moncayo, 22, was killed in April 2015 after a 14-foot trench wall caved in on him as he worked at a site on 9th Avenue in Manhattan. Credit: Manhattan District Attorney

The Long Island-based excavation subcontractor whose immigrant worker was buried alive in a cave-in on a Manhattan construction site in 2015 has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and a $100,000 OSHA penalty as part of a manslaughter plea, according to a plea agreement.

The plea deal with Sky Materials Corp., finalized on Wednesday, marks the fourth criminal conviction stemming from the death of Carlos Moncayo, 22, an undocumented Ecuadorean who was crushed when Sky’s unshored trench at a Restoration Hardware site collapsed and crushed him on April 6, 2015.

Sky, based in Queens and Calverton, also pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing, a felony, in connection with a separate case charging that the company lied about its payroll to save on workers’ compensation premiums and submitted false documents to the New York City Business Integrity Commission.

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance provided a copy of Sky’s plea agreement signed by its lawyer, and said the plea was entered on Wednesday. But Vance’s office, which held a news conference when charges were filed over Moncayo’s death, provided no notice of the plea, and Vance issued no statement.

The plea was entered before Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Thomas Farber. Sky lawyer Brian Gardner did not respond to requests for comment.

Sky owner Michael Cholowsky, 53, of Manhasset, also faces charges in the insurance fraud case, and was not covered by the plea deal. His case is set for a hearing in June. Cholowsky was previously a cooperating witness in the Brookhaven landfill scandal in Suffolk County, pleading guilty to conspiracy and receiving probation in 2000.

General contractor Harco Construction LLC, a Manhattan company, was previously convicted of manslaughter in Moncayo’s death and fined $10,000. Harco site supervisor Alfonso Prestia pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, and Sky foreman Wilmer Cueva was convicted of criminally negligent homicide. Prestia got probation, and Cueva was jailed.

At Cueva’s trial, his defense lawyer argued that Sky didn’t properly prepare or train him for safety aspects of his job. Sky will be allowed to continue doing business as part of the plea deal, but it said the company had to take several “remedial steps” to improve safety on construction sites.

Those steps included naming an “experienced construction safety professional” to oversee safety on each site, who would have regular daily and weekly communication with Cholowsky or his vice president.

The company is hiring a former police detective as compliance officer to oversee safety practices and guard against fraud, will have top officials attend safety classes conducted at the company, and implement an employee reward program for good safety practices, the plea agreement said.

It wasn’t clear whether those steps were mandatory and enforceable parts of the plea deal.

Vance spokeswoman Joan Vollero said Moncayo’s family had been told of the Sky plea and was satisfied with it, but did not attend the plea proceeding.

Vollero said she would “decline to comment” in response to a question about whether Sky agreed to cooperate or provide information on other construction safety cases as part of the deal.

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