Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that the payroll manager for a Bergen County construction company was charged with demanding cash kickbacks from employees and failing to pay them for numerous hours of work.
The charging documents allege that this was done to circumvent prevailing wage rules on public works projects. The company, UniMak, LLC, of Saddle Brook, has entered a non-prosecution agreement with the Attorney General’s Office under which it has agreed to pay $1 million to seven employees who were cheated out of earned wages.
UniMak, LLC officer and payroll manager, Toni Jovanoski, 44, of Montvale, was charged by complaint-summons on March 2 with the following criminal offenses:
- False Contract Payment Claims, Representation, for a Government Contract; Prevailing Wage Violations (3rd Degree)
- Misconduct by a Corporate Official (3rd Degree)
UniMak, LLC, executed a non-prosecution agreement with the Attorney General’s Office on March 1, in which it agreed to be jointly and severally liable with Jovanoski for payment of full restitution of $1,082,041 to the seven victims.
UniMak and its principals, owners, and directors also will be debarred for three years from obtaining new contracts with the State of New Jersey or any of its administrative or political subdivisions.
UniMak, through its counsel, must report quarterly for three years to the Division of Criminal Justice regarding its prevailing wage compliance and oversight of subcontractor compliance.
The criminal charges and non-prosecution agreement are the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General-Newark Field Office, and the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation.
The investigation was undertaken as a result of a criminal referral by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, who also provided valuable assistance during the investigation.
“We’re committed to using all available tools, including criminal prosecutions, to protect our workers and the integrity of our public contracts,” Attorney General Grewal said. “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, allegedly failed to pay seven employees the mandated prevailing wages for hours they worked on such projects by requiring cash kickbacks from the employees.
Specifically, it is alleged that 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 allegedly were required to pay Jovanoski the amount on the note, or they would not receive subsequent paychecks.
“We’re putting dishonest contractors on notice that we will hold them accountable by aggressively investigating and prosecuting prevailing wage violations and fraud in public projects,” Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice said.
By paying the kickbacks to Jovanoski, the employees’ wages were reduced to less than the prevailing wage rates required. It is further alleged that 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.