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Press Release

Pennsylvania Contractor Sentenced To 33 Months In Prison For Extorting Kickbacks From Employees And Authorizing The Hit-And-Run Of A Site Manager

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

CAMDEN, N.J. – A Pennsylvania construction company supervisor was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for extorting kickbacks from employees and giving the “go ahead” for the vehicular assault of a site manager critical of his company’s performance on a reconstruction project at the Ft. Dix military base in Burlington County, New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today.

Richard Cottone, 40, of Windsor, Pennsylvania, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to obtain kickbacks from public works employees and one count of travel in interstate commerce to commit a crime of violence. Judge Rodriguez imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Cottone is the son-in-law of Leonard Santos, 68, of Yardley, Pennsylvania, who owned Sands Mechanical Inc. of Bristol, Pennsylvania. Between November 2009 and September 2010, Sands Mechanical was a subcontractor on the restoration and rehabilitation of the Marine Corps Reserve Training Center at Joint Base-McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County. Sands Mechanical provided HVAC and plumbing services. The general contractor was a company headquartered in Marriotsville, Maryland.

In order to increase the profitability of the project, Santos, with the aid of Cottone and Michael Featherston, 45, of Bridgeton, New Jersey, demanded that certain employees kickback a percentage of their weekly paychecks or face termination. In February 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) was tipped off that the Sands Mechanical employees were being forced to kickback portions of their salary and were not being paid the prevailing wage for Burlington County. Santos conceded that Sands Mechanical failed to pay the proper prevailing wage to its employees and agreed to repay $80,000 to those deprived employees. Santos cut settlement checks to those employees who were owed back wages. However, Cottone and Featherston warned those employees not to cash their settlement checks. Instead, Cottone and Featherston took the employees to a nearby check cashing business, where they endorsed their checks over to Cottone, who cashed them and returned the funds to Santos.

The general contractor’s site manager was routinely critical of the work performance of Sands Mechanical’s employees, which, at times, necessitated that work be done over. Cottone was told to physically incapacitate the site manager so that he could no longer supervise the work site. Afterwards, Cottone recruited an assailant to physically attack the site manager. On June 10, 2010, the assailant opted instead to hit the site manager with his car and called Cottone for permission to carry out the deed. After Cottone gave the “go-ahead” the assailant and two friends ran down the site manager while he was riding his bike. The victim sustained multiple serious injuries.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Rodriguez sentenced Cottone to serve three years of supervised release.

Santos pleaded guilty on April 14, 2014 and awaits sentencing. Featherston pleaded guilty on Jan. 10, 2012 and was sentenced to one year in prison on Feb. 10, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Garcia; the Department of Labor-Wage and Hour Division, under the direction of Acting Regional Administrator Mark Watson Jr.; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Leo S. Lamont, Northeast field office; and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent Seth Neville, detachment commander, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel V. Grady O’Malley and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Bruck of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime-Gangs Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel: Richard Sparaco Esq., Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Updated May 21, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-184