A man who posed as a government inspector to extort tens of thousands of dollars from construction companies has been sentenced to prison.
A judge sentenced Anthony Lewis of Brooklyn, NY, to 7 to 21 years in prison for the extortion scheme that targeted New York City building contractors.
Lewis and another man created an organization, the Committee on Contract Compliance, to extort money from building contractors by threatening to report fake violations at job sites.
Members of the organization visited construction sites carrying clipboards and video cameras, and wearing hardhats with the name of the committee, making it appear they worked for a government agency.
They threatened to report contractors to regulatory agencies unless the contractors paid them.
Sixteen victims made payoffs ranging from $300 to $10,000.
If contractors refused to pay, reports of false violations and hazards were made to New York City and federal agencies, including OSHA.
“Lewis was an arrogant bully who used whatever means he could think of to intimidate and threaten small-time contractors,” Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Lederer told the judge.
In the case of a real OSHA inspection, compliance officers always offer their credentials to the company. Employers can check the inspector’s credentials by calling the nearest OSHA office. Inspectors will never collect a penalty at the time of the inspection.
If someone claims to be an OSHA inspector but doesn’t follow the correct protocol, police and FBI should be contacted.
For more information on what to expect if an OSHA inspector comes to your company, you can check out the document posted here (PDF).