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All Shook Down: Bergen Payroll Manager’s Extortion Racket Shorted Workers By $1M, State Charges

Unimak, off Midland Avenue in Saddle Brook.
Unimak, off Midland Avenue in Saddle Brook. Photo Credit: GoogleMaps

The payroll manager of a Saddle Brook construction company shorted a group of employees' pay by more than $1 million by shaking them down for cash kickbacks, state authorities charged.

Toni Jovanoski, 44, of Montvale was charged with misconduct by a corporate official and making false payment claims for a public works contract, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced Monday.

At the same time, state officials allowed the general contractor, UniMak, to avoid criminal charges by agreeing to repay the seven cheated employees the full $1,082,041 they lost, he 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,” Grewal said.

If they didn’t pony up, they didn’t get paid, he said.

Jovanoski withheld overtime pay and even regular work hours, the attorney general said.

State prosecutors charged him after UniMak, LLC, entered a non-prosecution agreement with Grewal’s office to be “jointly and severally liable with Jovanoski for payment of full restitution,” he said.

“UniMak and 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.

UniMak, which has been in business since 2004, also 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.

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-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 is prosecuting the case for the Specialized Crimes Bureau.

Bajrami investigated the case with Detective Sang Han, former Detective Robyn Greene, and former Analyst Terri Drumm, Grewal said.

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