The following announcement was sent out by the Office of the Attorney General:
Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell announced today that her office has filed suit against Avatar Construction Corp. of Watertown and its owner, Nazar Vincent, for violating the Massachusetts False Claims Act by underpaying workers in five municipal construction contracts for which it was the prime contractor.
The complaint, filed March 14 in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Avatar knowingly used fraudulent payroll forms created by its subcontractor to obtain payment and concealed the fact that workers were paid far less than the required prevailing wage rates. The complaint alleges that the wages falsely reported by Avatar also far exceeded what it was actually paying its subcontractor.
“The Prevailing Wage Law is crucial for ensuring that workers on public construction projects in Massachusetts receive fair and equal wages,” AG Campbell said. “As we push for greater economic mobility for our residents, my office will continue to firmly enforce our laws to hold businesses accountable that fail to play by the rules and exploit their workers.”
In June 2021, the AG’s Fair Labor Division received a complaint alleging that Avatar’s contractor was not paying the prevailing wage on a public job despite representations by Avatar to city and town officials that it was. The Division conducted an investigation concluding that Avatar and its subcontractor, Gonza Construction, Inc., submitted false payroll records on public projects in Cambridge, Lawrence, Stoughton and Watertown, underpaying workers by at least $171,095.
The Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law sets the minimum hourly wage rates allowable for certain classifications of workers on public construction projects in the Commonwealth. This lawsuit follows another AG enforcement action also pending in Suffolk Superior Court, in which the Court found in December 2022 the defendant liable under the Massachusetts False Claims Act for knowingly using its subcontractor’s fraudulent payroll records.
In her inaugural address in January 2023, AG Campbell announced her commitment to building economic prosperity for Massachusetts residents by combatting wage theft. Workers who believe that their rights have been violated in their workplace are encouraged to file a complaint at www.mass.gov/ago/fairlabor. For information about the state’s wage and hour laws, workers may call the AG’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465 or go to Workplace Rights website for materials in 12 languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Chinese.
The AG’s False Claims Division was created in 2015 to safeguard public funds and promote integrity and accountability in public contracting. AG Campbell urges anyone with information about suspected fraud or abuse relating to state or municipal contracts or funds to contact the False Claims Division’s tip line at (617) 963-2600.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Walker of the AG’s False Claims Division and Investigator Greg Reutlinger of the AG’s Fair Labor Division.