A Wayland construction company, its owner, and a former employee have been indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury for allegedly lying on workplace safety affidavits required for working in Boston, where two of the contractor’s workers were killed at a job site in February.
While the charges announced Tuesday do not accuse Atlantic Coast Utilities or its associates of criminal wrongdoing in the workers’ deaths, prosecutors allege the business provided city regulators with falsified records about its safety history four different times beginning in October 2019.
Jordy Alexander Castaneda Romero, 27, of Lynn, and Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, of Somerville, died after being hit by a dump truck and thrown into a 9-foot trench on High Street, where they were doing sewer work for a private landlord on Feb. 24.
The company faces four counts of perjury and its owner Laurence M. Moloney, 57, of Quincy, faces three counts of perjury, according to Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, whose office investigated the men’s deaths. Konstantinos Kollias, 35, of Newton, who worked for Atlantic Coast Utilities, faces one count of perjury. Their arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court.
Romero’s sister, Leslie Villalobos, said she hopes the prosecution is a wake-up call for Moloney, whose company faces $1.3 million in penalties for “willful, repeat and serious” workplace safety violations.
“I am glad this will no longer happen to another family under his wing,” she wrote in a text message. “My brother, Jordy, and Carlos are human and [deserve] justice for what has happened to them.”
Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for Moloney, said in a statement that “the February 2021 tragedy was just that — a tragic accident.”
“We are confident that Mr. Moloney will be cleared regarding the separate administrative misunderstanding,” the statement said.
Moloney is contesting the citations issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and proposed penalty of $1.3 million. A settlement conference before an administrative law judge with the OSHA Review Commission is scheduled for Feb. 14, according to an OSHA spokesman.
Reached by phone, Kollias said he wasn’t aware of the grand jury indictment and hasn’t worked for the company in a while. Any information he received about Atlantic Coast Utilities came from Moloney, he said.
Investigators concluded that the driver of the dump truck that ran into the men was not “criminally liable” for their deaths, Rollins’s office said.
Michelle Newton, a lawyer who represents Romero’s widow, Meladys, said his family had hoped that authorities would file criminal charges in connection to his death and asked how city officials missed the false statements that prosecutors allege Atlantic Coast Utilities made on its safety affidavits.
“You would think that the city would have done a little further investigation,” she said. Atlantic Coast Utilities is “pretty well known for their violations in the industry.”
The perjury case focuses on what is known as a “Mattocks-Higgins Affidavit of Workplace Safety,” which requires contractors to disclose any safety citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration against their business. Contractors must submit the affidavit to receive a work permit in Boston.
The requirement was enacted by former mayor Martin J. Walsh after two men — Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins — died in a 2016 trench collapse in the South End. Walsh resigned earlier this year to lead the Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA.
Moloney allegedly submitted false affidavits to the city on his company’s behalf on March 20, 2019, Aug. 6, 2019, and Dec. 1, 2020, stating that the company had no prior OSHA safety violations, prosecutors said. Kollias allegedly submitted a false affidavit to the city along the same lines on Oct. 7, 2019, they said.
The affidavits were false because Atlantic Coast Utilities had, in fact, been issued citations by OSHA on Sept. 8, 2016, and again on June 3, 2019, prosecutors said.
In a statement, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said “the negligence of Atlantic Coast Utilities and its owners contributed to the death of two workers in a preventable, tragic accident on our city’s streets.”
“These individuals cannot and will not escape responsibility through perjury and lies,” Wu said in a statement. “I support District Attorney Rollins’ prosecution and commit to leading a city that protects all of Boston’s workers.”
The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, a nonprofit group, said the company’s alleged deception is “one of the more heartbreaking aspects of this tragedy” because the business is accused of falsifying records created to protect workers.
“We hope that Atlantic Coast Utilities is held responsible for these tragic deaths and their deception to the full extent of the law,” the group said in a statement.
In September, the Boston City Council’s Committee on Small Business and Workforce Development held a hearing about safety at construction sites. On Tuesday, Councilor Julia Mejia, the committee’s leader, said “nobody should ever have to wake up questioning whether they will make it home at the end of their work day because the safety conditions at their work site put them at risk.”
“And while we are relieved to know that the District Attorney’s office is taking action, this is a devastating reminder that the fight to ensure workplace safety doesn’t end after a law is passed,” Mejia said in a statement. “It is simply not good enough for the city to rely on the words of the construction company alone when it comes to workplace safety. We need stronger inspection and investigative powers and we need to have the will to cut ties with contractors who routinely disobey the law.”
City Councilor Ed Flynn, who cosponsored the hearing, said the perjury charges illustrate “the critical need to thoroughly vet the background and history of OSHA safety violations for construction companies that are performing work in our city.” He said he will continue to push for safety on construction sites in Boston.
City Councilor Andrea Campbell said the city must confirm that contractors are filing truthful affidavits. “It’s a matter of life and death,” she said.
Councilor Lydia Edwards said the city could verify contractors’ safety records during biannual reviews mandated under the Boston Residents Job Policy, an ordinance that requires city residents, women, and people of color be hired to work on most major building projects.
“There’s no reason why we should allow a company to slip through the cracks and someone die as result of that, especially if we’re checking everything else,” she said.
The city owes the workers’ families an apology, Edwards said.
“We should have done better by them,” she said. “They shouldn’t have been working in the city of Boston.”
Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.