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Construction Company Payroll Manager Pleads Guilty in Fraud Scheme Involving Wage Violations

By rlsmetro on
Saddle Brook

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that the payroll manager for a Bergen County construction company was sentenced for demanding cash kickbacks from employees and failing to pay them for numerous hours of work to circumvent prevailing wage rules on public works projects. 

The company, UniMak, LLC, of Saddle Brook, entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the Attorney General’s Office in March under which it agreed to pay $1 million to seven employees who were cheated out of earned wages.   The payroll manager, Toni Jovanoski, 44, of Montvale, was sentenced on Friday, June 4, to a five-year term of probation and 300 hours of community service by Superior Court Judge James X. Sattely in Bergen County. 

Jovanoski pleaded guilty on April 22, to third-degree false contract payment claims for a government contract (prevailing wage violations) and third-degree misconduct by a corporate official. 

Under the plea agreement, Jovanoski must pay the New Jersey Department of the Treasury $23,913 in back taxes related to these offenses. He also is jointly and severally liable with UniMak for payment of full restitution of $1,082,041 to the seven victims.   Under the non-prosecution agreement, UniMak and its principals, owners and directors are debarred for three years from securing new contracts with the State of New Jersey or any of its administrative or political subdivisions. 

The company must report quarterly for three years to the Division of Criminal Justice about its prevailing wage compliance and oversight of subcontractor compliance.   “We’re committed to using all available tools, including criminal prosecutions, to protect our workers and the integrity of our public contracts,” said Attorney General Grewal. 

“New Jersey’s Prevailing Wage Act is intended to safeguard the interests and well-being of workers on public projects and prevent unfair competition among contractors bidding for such projects. We won’t tolerate corporate officials who cheat their workers and illegally enrich themselves and their businesses with public funds.”   For more than five years, from January 2013 through February 2018, UniMak engaged in public works projects subject to the provisions of the Prevailing Wage Act. During that period, Jovanoski, as payroll manager, failed to pay seven employees the mandated prevailing wages for hours they worked on such projects by requiring cash kickbacks from the employees. 

Specifically, the employees received paychecks for work they completed that included a note indicating how much each of them was required to kick back to Jovanoski in cash. They were required to pay Jovanoski the amount on the note, or they would not receive subsequent paychecks.   By paying the kickbacks, the employees’ wages were reduced to less than the prevailing wage rates required. In addition, Jovanoski failed to pay the seven employees for numerous hours of overtime and, in many cases, regular work hours they worked on the public works projects.   Attorney General Grewal thanked the Special Agents of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General-Newark Field Office and Auditor Kerry Czymek of the New Jersey Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation for their work on the investigation.  

He also thanked the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development for their referral and valuable assistance.