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Three indicted for manslaughter over 2018 construction worker death

SUNSET PARK — The operator of a construction company and two other men were indicted on manslaughter charges Thursday over the 2018 death of a construction worker who was crushed by a falling wall at an unsafe work site, the Brooklyn district attorney announced Thursday.

Three others were indicted on various other charges, ranging from criminally negligent homicide to financial crimes.

Jiaxi “Jimmy” Liu, Wilson Garcia Jr., and Paul Bailey were all charged with second-degree manslaughter for the death of Luis Almonte Sanchez, a laborer at the Sunset Park construction site who died when the 15,000-45,000 pound wall fell — despite workers and neighbors warning of unsafe conditions at the site before the tragedy.

“This is no mistake. This is not an accident what happened,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “This is a direct result of owner recklessness and neglect. The people who were in charge of this project were simply motivated by monetary reasons. They were willing to ignore the safety of their workers to advance how quickly they could get the job done.”

Liu ran the construction company, WSC Group LLC. Garcia was the foreperson of the site, and Bailey was an engineer, responsible for making sure building codes were followed. One other defendant, Siu Wah Maria Cheung-Mui, was charged with criminally negligent homicide.

They all allegedly cut corners in order to expedite the job and make it more cost-effective, according to prosecutors and investigators.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez points at the defendants in the case of the death of construction worker Luis Almonte Sanchez. Photo: Paul Frangipane/ Brooklyn Eagle

“This indictment demonstrates the tragic results we have seen far too often when individuals who purport to be construction professionals ignore safety problems and warnings,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett.

The construction company was performing demolition, excavation and foundation work at the Sunset Park site to tear down a one-story building and put a four-story facility in its place from April to September of 2018, according to prosecutors.

Despite warnings of unsafe conditions from workers and neighbors — who were laboring in stormy weather during Hurricane Florence — Jimmy Liu allegedly refused to stop work on the property.

The defendants also allegedly did not follow their own plans that had been submitted to and approved by the Department of Buildings.

They ultimately did not follow any plans as they performed the construction work, prosecutors said.

The same company and people were issued a stop work order by DOB at another construction site in Brooklyn in 2017-2018, after an inspection revealed violations at the site, prosecutors said. The company allegedly did not stop work at the site.

On top of the unsafe conditions at work site, WSC also allegedly stole about $47,000 from the New York State Insurance Fund by lying about their employees, according to the district attorney.

One defendant, Cindy Chai, who worked as a bookkeeper for WSC, was only charged with financial crimes and nothing related to the death of Almonte Sanchez. Another, Jia Rong Liu, was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment but not manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

The six defendants are to be arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on Thursday afternoon.

Gonzalez said his office would not be asking for bail in the case, as second degree manslaughter will not be eligible for bail when new criminal justice reforms take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

His office will consent to the defendants’ release without bail.

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