The payroll manager of a Bergen County construction company admitted that he shorted a group of employees by more than $1 million in pay by shaking them down for cash kickbacks, state authorities said.
Rather than wait for an indictment following his arrest last month, Toni Jovanoski, 44, of Montvale took a deal from prosecutors following an investigation into his Saddle Brook company, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
Jovanoski pleaded guilty this week in Superior Court in Hackensack to making false payment claims for a government contract (prevailing wage violations) and misconduct by a corporate official.
In return, prosecutors said they will ask Superior Court Judge James X. Sattely to sentence Jovanoski to five years probation on June 4.
He also must pay the state $23,913 in back taxes stemming from the offenses, Grewal said.
Jovanoski and his company, UniMak, LLC, also signed a non-prosecution agreement with Grewal’s office last month to pay seven employees the full $1,082,041 they got cheated out of, the attorney general said.
For more than five years, beginning in January 2013, the workers “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,” the attorney general said.
If they didn’t pony up, they didn’t get paid, he said.
Jovanoski withheld overtime pay and even regular work hours, Grewal said.
As part of the plea deal, UniMak, which has been in business since 2004, must "report quarterly for three years to the Division of Criminal Justice regarding its prevailing wage compliance and oversight of subcontractor compliance,” the attorney general said.
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,” Grewal said.
The charges and agreement follow an investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General's Newark Field Office and the New Jersey Department of the Treasury’s Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation.
It began with a referral by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which Grewal said “provided valuable assistance” during the investigation.
“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,” the attorney general said. “We won’t tolerate corporate officials who cheat their workers and illegally enrich themselves and their businesses with public funds.”
Deputy Attorney General Gezim Bajrami secured the guilty plea for Grewal’s Specialized Crimes Bureau.
Bajrami investigated the case with Detective Sang Han, former Detective Robyn Greene, and former Analyst Terri Drumm, he said.
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