Three men charged with manslaughter for construction worker’s death

First responders were unable to retrieve the victim’s body for over 24 hours after he was crushed by falling debris.
Photo by Paul Martinka

Three men have been indicted on manslaughter charges for the death of a construction worker in Brooklyn — who was crushed under thousands of pounds of debris while working at an unsafe construction site, according to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.

“This is no mistake, this is not an accident,” said Gonzalez. “This is a direct result of owner recklessness and neglect, and the people who are in charge of this project were simply motivated by monetary reasons.” 

The operator of the site and two of his business partners face second-degree manslaughter charges for allegedly ignoring multiple warning signs of dangerous conditions at the construction spot — near 39th Street and Seventh Avenue — where 47-year-old Luis Almonte Sanchez was crushed by a falling wall and killed instantly in September 2018, according to authorities.

Investigators alleged that the defendants skirted multiple city regulations while overseeing the construction, and had been alerted to the potentially dangerous conditions by both workers and neighbors — to no avail.

“These defendants discounted the City’s construction code, making up the rules as they went along, creating the perfect conditions for a disaster that ultimately cost a worker his life,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett. 

In one instance, a woman who lived directly adjacent to the construction site told the defendants that her patio and garage had caved in — but they ordered the construction crew to continue operations, without installing additional bracing or pausing work, according to investigators. 

Making matters worse, the defendants allegedly ordered crews to continue excavation of the building’s basement during a heavy rainstorm — by removing truckloads of dirt — which further compromised the building’s stability, according to the DA’s office.

“Cutting corners on the work site costs lives,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca. “Luis Almonte Sanchez is no longer with us due to the defendants’ callous disregard for even the most basic excavation safety regulations, in service of padding their own bank accounts.”

Throughout all of their suspect business practices, the three manslaughter defendants had scrapped the plans that they had submitted to the Building’s Department, and “ultimately didn’t follow any plans,” according to the District Attorney’s office.

The unsafe work conditions prevented first responders from retrieving Sanchez’s body for over 24 hours after the wall — weighing between 15,000 and 45,000 pounds — collapsed on him, authorities said. 

The site of Sanchez’s fatality was not the first problematic construction site run by the defendants, according to the District Attorney, who accused the suspects of operating another worksite on Bay Ridge Parkway in 2017-2018, that ignored multiple stop-work orders stemming from various Department of Building violations.

Additionally, the construction site operator had previously been convicted of bribing a Department of Buildings official on a separate project — and was only able to obtain permits for the project where Sanchez was killed by setting up a shadow company where his name was not used in any official capacity. 

Following Sanchez’s death, department investigators inspected every construction site associated with the defendants to prevent similar tragedies, according department reps. 

In addition to operating the treacherous work sites, Gonzalez’s office accused the company of stealing $47,000 from the New York State Insurance Fund by falsifying insurance records, and skirting over $28,000 in taxes between 2015 and 2016.

The three main defendants were charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and second-degree reckless endangerment. 

A fourth defendant was also indicted for criminally negligent homicide and second degree reckless endangerment. 

A fifth defendant — a bookkeeper for one of the companies — was indicted on various charges related to their alleged financial impropriety. 

The District Attorney also brought charges specifically against the two companies involved in Sanchez’s fatality — including second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and second-degree reckless endangerment. 

All seven defendants face a litany of other charges — including grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and criminal possession of a forged instrument.