DOWNTOWN — Two trucking company owners who helped with World Trade Center clean up were arrested Thursday and charged with stiffing workers out of wages and stealing $1 million from their benefits fund, authorities said.
Brothers Gerardo and Vincent Fusella, who own Fusella Group L.L.C. and Alpine Investment Group, Inc., allegedly embezzled money from Teamsters Local 282 while carting construction and demolition debris between sites and landfills in Long Island, New York City, New Jersey and other locations, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
“It is imperative that employers provide the wages and benefits to which their employees are legally entitled,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in a statement.
“As alleged, these defendants not only failed to pay their workers full pay and benefits, they failed to make the legally required security benefit contributions designed to provide security in retirement, and they also embezzled more than $1,000,000 from the Local’s benefit fund account.”
Between 2007 and 2009 the brothers allegedly worked with a Local 282 shop steward to hide their drivers' work hours in order to avoid paying required hourly wages and benefit fund contributions.
In 2007 they were contracted to remove dirt and debris from the World Trade Center construction site, allegedly failing to pay wages and benefits specified under the union contract.
Beginning in 2008 the brothers also embezzled funds from the union's benefit funds, taking more than $1 million by 2009, according to the indictment, unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
And during that same period, the truck company owners allegedly avoided paying more than $150,000 in Social Security, federal and state tax contributions by falsely claiming their employees were private contractors and by not reporting salaries paid to their office workers and mechanics.
Both men face a maximum sentence ranging from 5 to 20 years on each of the 31 counts if they are convicted.