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Contractor for Botanical Gardens, Queens Hospital Center cheated workers: DA

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The owner of a Brooklyn-based electrical company that worked on special projects for the Queens Botanical Gardens and Queens Hospital Center was arraigned last week for allegedly cheating his employees out of hundreds of thousands of wages, the Queens district attorney said.

Arie Bar, 56, of Lawrence, L.I., and his company, Aar/Co Electrical Inc., at 5902 Ave. N in Brooklyn, were indicted on 391 counts May 14, including grand larceny and falsifying business records, the DA said. An audit by the city comptroller found that Bar allegedly paid his workers $43 to $53 less per hour but stated in official payroll documents that he paid them $73 per hour in wages and benefits, according to DA Richard Brown.

"The failure to pay prevailing wages is a prevalent problem all over New York and in Queens... due to our large immigrant population," Brown said in a statement. "The end result is that workers are put in a difficult position of complaining and losing their jobs."

Bar's attorney could not be reached for comment.

The city's Design and Construction Department alerted the comptroller's office and alleged that eight Aar/Co employees who were working at the Queens Botanical Garden were not being paid at the prevailing wage.

The city comptroller, William Thompson, launched an audit into the company's projects from April 2004 to August 2007 and discovered that Bar allegedly kept nearly $656,000 in monies that were supposed to go to the workers.

"Contractors should think twice before cheating workers out of prevailing wages or they could face serious consequences, like Arie Bar and Aar/Co Electrical Inc.," Thompson said in a statement.

If convicted, Bar faces up to 15 years in prison and his company faces a fine of up to $1.312 million, according to Brown.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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