HELLS KITCHEN — A mobbed-up contractor with a history of underpaying his workers is now cheating his current workers of overtime on a Ninth Avenue hotel project, according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Federal Court.
Employees working on the 577 Ninth Ave. project, where a construction worker plummeted to his death in August, filed suit on Oct. 13 against their boss Vincent Zollo — who spent about four years in federal prison for racketeering and once employed Gambino crime family scion John Gotti Jr. — as well as his firm, Rovini Concrete Corp., which was given the subcontract to build the project.
Workers there have been forced to work 60 hours a week but were not paid overtime, according to the class action lawsuit.
"You'd work 58 hours at $16 [an hour]," said Jamez Leggett, 37, of East Harlem, one of five plaintiffs named in the case. "There were times we had to stay overnight...The general contractor knows that Vinny's gonna get it done with speed...He gets it done fast, that's why there's pressure, a lot of pressure."
Zollo, 48, is married to Rosemary Zollo, who is listed as a principal at Rovini Concrete Corp. and who works as a real estate agent in Huntington, Long Island, according to marriage records and state business records.
In the 1990s, Vincent Zollo won an estimated $10 million in construction contracts from city agencies through his company, Zollo Construction Corp., before pleading guilty to racketeering charges in 1998 for defrauding the city and his links to John Gotti Jr., the son of the Gambino family crime boss, according to court records. In addition to nearly four years in prison he was ordered to pay more than $117,000 in restitution.
The School Construction Authority found at the time that he was paying his workers 60 percent less than the authority required, according to reports.
Zollo had to pay more than $100,000 in fines as a result, federal court records show. He finished paying this June, court records show.
Vincent, the company president, could not be reached for comment. His wife Rosemary declined to comment for this story.
Leggett described a cutthroat atmosphere at Rovini, saying workers were constantly reminded that they could be easily replaced.
"You [can] complain or ask about it...but then one day you'll come in and [are told] 'You're not performing well. You're too slow, [or] you want a drink of water? You can get all the water you want — go on home,'" Leggett said.
Construction at the 577 Ninth Ave. site made news in August when Rovini worker Angel Muñoz, a 27-year-old worker from Ecuador, fell four floors down an elevator shaft and died. OSHA is still investigating his death, a spokesman said.
Leggett knew Muñoz from an earlier job site, but hadn't worked for Rovini since February when he hurt his leg on the job, he said. "I just wanted my job. I never really liked handouts," he said.
"You sleep better at night knowing everything you got is yours."