News and Press Releases

Seven Defendants Charged for Falsifying Construction Testing Documents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 24, 2009

Charges Include Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, and Conspiracy

Five criminal complaints were unsealed this morning in federal court in Brooklyn charging seven defendants, including the principals of three construction companies, the owners of two construction testing companies, and a Licensed Professional Engineer, for their roles in falsifying, or conspiring to falsify, construction testing documents for four construction projects located in New York City Metropolitan area.1 Those defendants arrested today have initial appearances scheduled later this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak at the U. S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.

The charges were announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Robert Van Etten, Inspector General, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Rose Gill Hearn, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation.

The defendants are Barry Gurvitch, CEO of Artimus Construction, Insaf Ali, CEO of Two A’s Mechanical, Frank Acocella, principal of Xavier Contracting, Daniel Ferreira, an employee of Xavier Contracting, Tasheen Syed, a Licensed Professional Engineer, Gustavo Reyes, owner of Approved Testing, and Tomas Diaz, owner of Credential Testing.

According to the complaints, cooperating witnesses recorded dozens of conversations with the defendants under the supervision of law enforcement. The falsified documents pertained to welding, soil boring tests, and asphalt work. Some of the defendants were recorded offering or making payoffs in exchange for falsified construction testing documents, and others were recorded accepting payoffs in exchange for providing false documents. A number of the requested falsified construction testing documents were intended to be provided to the New York City Department of Buildings in order to obtain Certificates of Occupancy. At other times, the requested falsified documents were intended to be provided to the New York City Parks Department or the New York City Housing Authority in order for the construction companies to be paid for work they performed. Some of the documents involved the fraudulent use of a Licensed Professional Engineer’s stamp to certify to the Department of Buildings that various tests had been performed when, in fact, those tests had not been performed.

“Ensuring the safety and quality of construction work is a serious responsibility,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “Those who would falsify testing documents will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted with the full force of the law.” Mr. Campbell expressed his appreciation to the New York City Department of Buildings, the New York City Parks Department, the New York City Housing Authority, Office of the Inspector General, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Office of the Inspector General, for their assistance in the investigation.

Port Authority Special Agent-in-Charge Van Etten stated, “There is no aspect of construction more important than adhering to relevant quality standards. This means safety for the public and durability for the project. It is unconscionable that a construction professional would risk public safety for personal financial gain. That is why my office has taken a leadership role in conducting investigations of testing standards in the construction industry. With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to aggressively investigate instances where construction quality and safety could be compromised and work toward reforming the industry’s testing practices.”

Department of Investigation Commissioner Gill Hearn stated, “These charges send a loud and clear message to the industry that faking construction materials tests is a sure path to criminal prosecution and possibly to prison. Law enforcement agencies know that bad things happen when construction safeguards are subverted for a quick dollar, and we will continue to work together to root out anyone who trifles with those rules.”

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Paul Tuchmann.

The Defendants:

FRANK ACOCELLA
Age: 40

INSAF ALI
Age: 48

TOMAS DIAZ
Age: 59

DANIEL FERREIRA
Age: 38

BARRY GURVITCH
Age: 52

GUSTAVO REYES
Age: 53

TASHEEN SYED
Age: 61

 

 

_____________________________

1 The charges in the complaints are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.



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