TRENTON – A Toms River contractor is facing three years in prison and hefty fines after pleading guilty to purposely not paying prevailing wages on a government contract valued over $75,000, announced Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.
On March 27, 45-year old Albert Chwedczuk pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree false contract payment claims. Chwedczuk allegedly falsified payroll records for the public contract to cover up the fact that he paid most of his employees only a fraction of the wages required under the Prevailing Wage Act, while not paying others at all. It is believed that Chwedczuk was taking advantage of his workers being undocumented immigrants.
Chwedczuk will be sentenced to three years in state prison and must pay $200,407 in restitution to his workers.
His sentencing is scheduled for September 6.
“I am committed to using all available tools, including New Jersey’s strong criminal laws, to protect our workers, protect our immigrants, and protect the integrity of our public contracts,” said Attorney General Grewal. “When contractors receive taxpayer dollars for a public project, they promise to pay prevailing wages to employees for all their hard work. But this employer cheated his workers and hoarded public funds for his own enrichment. This case is a message to all employers that we will not tolerate contractors underpaying their workers and lying about it.”
An investigation found that Chwedczuk purposefully failed to pay his employees up to $200,407 in wages on a prevailing wage public contract in 2015 and 2016, and this was not his first discretion. In 2014, Chwedczuk was legally barred from obtaining or performing work on public contracts due to his prior violations of the Prevailing Wage Act with his businesses Ren Construction LLC and Real Construction LLC.
Chwedczuk then created another business, Bella Group LLC, to land a public subcontract worth $400,000 to provide masonry work for the Cooper Camden Student Housing project. He then proceeded to underpay or not pay his employees at all.
To cover up his violations of the Prevailing Wage Act, he submitted falsified payrolls to the general contractor on a weekly basis. Chwedczuk also instructed several employees to provide false information to an NJLWD investigator regarding the wages they were receiving.
“We are sending a loud and clear message to dishonest contractors that this type of crime does not pay,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We want unscrupulous employers to know that we will work closely with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to investigate contract fraud and prevailing wage violations and hold bad actors accountable.”
“Our laws are clear: contractors are not guaranteed public financing of their projects, and if they want to receive public dollars they must pay their workers according to the letter of the law.This contractor’s actions were in complete defiance of our laws and principles, and that is why the state recommended a significant prison sentence. We are eager to work with our partners in the Attorney General’s Office to protect workers by ensuring unscrupulous contractors face significant penalties for crimes against New Jersey taxpayers,” stated Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.