Long Island brothers plead guilty in landscaping scam that risked employees health

A pair of sibling business owners pleaded guilty Friday to dodging more than $1 million in insurance premiums while endangering their employees on city demolition and road repair work.

Brothers Nicholas and Vito Dragonetti, turned in by a tipster last year, under-insured their workers at Dragonetti Brothers Landscaping and DB Demolition to pad their profits, prosecutors said in announcing the settlement.

“Workers doing dangerous work should be afforded every possible protection, yet these city contractors misclassified their employees for financial gain,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “As a result they put their workers at risk.”

Company presidents Nicholas Dragonetti, 49, and his 53-year-old brother Vito each pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing while both their companies admitted to insurance fraud between 2017 and 2019, authorities said.

The two residents of Bellmore, LI also agreed to pay $1.2 million in restitution to the New York State Insurance Fund, and they were barred from city contracts for the next three years in the probe.

According to authorities, the pair classified 217 laborers, foremen and heavy equipment operators as florists, salespeople and office workers. Authorities also said other workers listed in NYSIF paperwork as office workers were actually registered as commercial drivers with another agency.

Since 1998, the brothers landed more than 100 city contracts worth millions of dollars for jobs including sidewalk reconstruction and pedestrian ramp replacement, work requiring heavy machinery and demolition.

The charges were brought in September 2021 against the long-time contractors, with the plea agreement placing independent monitors in their businesses for the next three years and appointing a new managing director for the landscaping business, authorities said.

The ban on city contracts includes any other companies where the brothers hold more than 10% ownership.

The agreement “sends a clear message that companies cannot line their pockets at the expense of its employee,” said Bragg.

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