Jiaxi “Jimmy” Liu, the owner of a Brooklyn (NYC) company, faces 8 to 16 years in prison after being convicted Thursday in the death of Luis Almonte Sanchez, an employee crushed under tons of debris in a wall collapse.
Co-defendant Wilson Garcia Jr. (48), a foreman at the WSC Group Inc. site, had been convicted of criminal misconduct for the death of Almonte, a 47-year-old worker, but was later acquitted of criminally negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter. He could receive a one-year jail sentence.
Liu, 49, was found guilty Thursday of criminally negligent homicide and other charges in the Sept. 12, 2018, incident at 714 39th Street. Almonte died after his boss ignored concerns from employees and neighbors in Sunset Park about the risk of an impending tragedy, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said.
“The death of Luis Almonte Sanchez was a preventable tragedy that would have been avoided if the construction site operator had followed all safety protocols or heeded warnings about unsafe conditions,” Gonzalez said, quoted by the Daily News.
“This is not an accident that happened…This is a direct result of recklessness and negligence motivated by monetary reasons.”
Eric Gonzalez, Brooklyn District Attorney
Previously, DA Gonzalez had said, “This is not an accident that happened… This is a direct result of the recklessness and negligence of the owner and the people in charge of this project motivated by monetary reasons.”
Almonte’s body was buried under the rubble while doing foundation work and was not recovered until a day later due to unstable conditions exacerbated by heavy rains at the site.
According to the prosecution, before the tragedy, Liu continued with the work despite warnings that a rear wall was unstable and a neighbor’s word that his yard and garage had collapsed. Authorities also charged Liu with creating hazardous conditions by failing to follow design plans submitted and approved by the Department of Buildings (DOB).
Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Denny Chung on April 26 in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Liu was also convicted of tax fraud and other charges.
Employees Siu Wah Maria Cheung-Mui, JiaRong “Tommy” Liu – Jimmy Liu’s brother -and Cindy Chai were charged with recklessness and financial crimes related to the construction company, including tax and insurance fraud, The City reported.
According to prosecutors, the Liu-owned company worked where the tragedy occurred between April and September 2018, removing a one-story building to replace it with a four-story manufacturing structure. The work included a new basement level for a parking garage nine feet below the property.
In a similar case last week, laborer Jose Pereira was killed when a balcony collapsed on him while working to repair a condominium building in Sea Isle City, New Jersey.