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New York construction companies accused of safety scam

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two New York City construction companies and seven people have been accused of leaving 40 Manhattan construction sites unsupervised, conducting fraudulent inspections and falsifying records, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

They accused one company, Avanti Building Consultants Inc, of hiring short-order cooks, window treatment specialists, hotel bellhops, hairdressers, eBay vendors and a musician to sign safety logs at active construction sites.

Prosecutors said none of those people, who were recruited online on Craigslist.com, was properly licensed or qualified to conduct safety inspections.

The second company, NYCB Engineering Group, subcontracted work to Avanti, according to prosecutors.

"My office takes public safety seriously, whether in regard to violent crimes or safety at construction sites," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. "We are preventing harm by prosecuting wrongdoing in the construction industry."

Richard Marini, 60, and Richard Sfraga, 49, who managed Avanti, were charged with grand larceny, scheme to defraud and criminal possession of a forged instrument, prosecutors said.

Kishowar Pervez, 40, vice president of NYCB Engineering Group, and four employees also were charged.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Bernard Orr)

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