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Supervisor Convicted in Worker's Death Sentenced to Up to 3 Years in Prison

By  Trevor Kapp and Danielle Tcholakian | December 15, 2016 2:06pm 

 Wilmer Cueva, 51, was sentenced to one-to-three years in prison on Thursday.
Wilmer Cueva, 51, was sentenced to one-to-three years in prison on Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The excavation supervisor convicted of criminally negligent homicide of a young worker buried alive at a Meatpacking construction site last year was sentenced to one to three years in prison on Thursday, prosecutors said.

Wilmer Cueva, 51, directed workers to perform illegal excavation work and repeatedly ignored warnings about hazardous conditions, ultimately leading to the death of 22-year-old laborer Carlos Moncayo, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Cueva — who was also convicted of reckless endangerment last month — was an on-site foreman at the site on Ninth Avenue near West 13th Street responsible for overseeing the excavation and observing proper safety protocols, the DA’s Office said.

On April 6, 2015, prosecutors said, an inspector observed that a trench at the site was not secure and alerted Cueva, who turned a blind eye to it.

Less than an hour later, the trench was 13 feet deep, before it ultimately collapsed and crushed Moncayo to death. Three other workers were also injured.

“Cueva’s decision to direct his men into harm’s way profoundly affected the lives of those four men, most devastatingly that of Carlos Moncayo but also that of Carlos Vargas, who lives with PTSD from witnessing the death of his coworker,” Assistant District Attorney Diana Florence said.

The city has since formed a construction task force led by Florence and the Department of Investigation.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said that he hoped Cueva’s sentencing will send a message to other construction supervisors.

“Wilmer Cueva knowingly and repeatedly risked his workers’ lives in service of an ambitious construction schedule,” he said.

“In the face of multiple warnings about the perilous conditions he created at 9-19 Ninth Ave., Cueva personally directed — and then declined to stop — his illegal excavation work, and Carlos Moncayo, a young man working to support his family, perished needlessly as a result."

Cueva was employed by a subcontractor, Sky Materials. Sky is also facing charges in Moncayo's death.

The general contractor at the site, Harco Construction, was convicted and sentenced earlier this year, though the company's attorney declared they would not abide by the judge's sentence.

A Harco foreman, Alfonso Prestia, is also facing charges in a separate trial.