Construction Safety Scam – Company Accused of Selling 20K Fake Training Cards

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Updated Mar 13, 2024
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Valor's president bought luxury cars, homes, jewelry, yacht after company issued fake cards for 40-hour training that never occurred, D.A. says.
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A New York-based company has been accused of issuing fake safety certificates and cards to about 20,000 construction workers without providing the required training, including to a worker who died on the job, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Valor Security & Investigations issued the cards, which are required by New York City for construction workers on large projects, between December 2019 and April 2023. It was the third-largest producer of safety certifications in the city during that time, according to Bragg.

The cards said the recipients had undergone OSHA-30 training and/or 10 hours of Site Safety Training (SST). But emails obtained by investigators determined the cards were issued without training, sometimes as soon as an hour after the request.

Bragg also alleges that the death of 36-year-old Ivan A. Frias, who was issued one of the fake cards, could have been prevented if he had received the proper training. Frias died November 28, 2022, after falling 15 floors on a construction site at 263 West End Avenue.

“We allege that Valor Security & Investigations ran a fraudulent safety training school, falsely claiming that construction workers received the necessary training required to work on construction sites,” Bragg said. “We also allege that the death of one recipient, Ivan Frias, may have been prevented if not for the defendants’ reckless failure to train him.”

Six Valor executives and employees were indicted on charges of enterprise corruption, as well as second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

Nineteen, including a foreman for the NYC Housing Authority, are charged with acting as brokers between workers seeking cards and Valor, while four and Valor are charged with recklessly endangering the life of Frias.

Buying Luxury Cars, Yacht, Homes

Valor “filed paperwork certifying that Mr. Frias had completed 10 hours of safety training, including eight hours of fall protection,” but Valor “never provided any training to Mr. Frias,” Bragg alleges.

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Frias was among 20,000 others who received certifications and cards without actually being trained, according to the D.A. The recipients would pay anywhere from $300 to $600 per filing for a basic safety training card, with many of those payments in cash.

Valor’s president, Alexander Shaporov, allegedly had nearly $1 million in Zelle payments deposited into his personal accounts, which he used to “purchase multiple homes, luxury cars, jewelry, a yacht, and more,” Bragg says.

Shaporov, while also employed by the New York State Office of Medicaid Inspector General, emailed Valor staff January 28, 2021, dozens of photographs and identification cards of “trainees” with the subject line: “40 SST and whoever doesn’t have OSHA MAKE ONE UP,” according to the D.A.

A Housing Authority employee also charged in the case texted a Valor executive April 17, 2023, asking how quickly he could obtain a 40-hour safety training certificate.

The reply, “Tomorrow after 5pm.”

Cards within an Hour

“Undercover investigators purchased 40-hour safety certificates without taking any training classes and received the requested certificates within an hour,” according to the D.A.’s office.

One undercover investigator also had paperwork submitted to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) that the investigator had never seen or completed.

The D.A. also reports that it would have been physically impossible for Valor trainers to provide the required training for the cards they issued. Valor claimed in filings with OSHA and the DOB that its trainers taught safety classes in Brooklyn when they were also reportedly in Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Staten Island.

Sometimes the same trainers were training in “three different states … or five different sites on the same day.”

Valor also claimed in documents to have provided hundreds of courses, yet surveillance video showed empty classrooms. Safety certificates were provided for some workers with “LNU” on them, an abbreviation for “last name unknown.”

Valor is also alleged to have provided certificates and cards for specialized training such as “Site Safety Manager,” “Master Rigger,” “Hoisting Machine Operator,” “Master Climber,” and “Limited gas work” courses.

The Charges

Shaporov, 40, the company’s president, is charged with multiple counts of enterprise corruption as well as second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

The following other Valor personnel were indicted by the New York Supreme Court on similar charges: Training Director Richard Marini, 70; instructor Eliot Sosinov, 44; General Manager Nigina Zokirova, 24; Compliance Director Marina Balzer, 28; and Director of Business Development Rimma Chakhalyan, 24.

According to the D.A., Shaporov, Zokirova, Chakhalyan and Balzer submitted fraudulent resumes to OSHA to obtain their teaching credentials.

Luz Barbra, 43, allegedly provided the fake training certificate for Frias and is charged with second-degree reckless endangerment.

This investigation was conducted jointly with the D.A.’s office and New York City Department of Investigation, with assistance from the DOB and OSHA.

“Together, the charged defendants allegedly facilitated the evasion of New York City’s site safety training requirements, intended to protect construction workers and all New Yorkers in proximity to construction sites,” DOI Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber said. 

Why the Cards are Important

The alleged scheme began about two years after New York City passed a local law requiring workers to take at least 40 hours of safety training to work on larger construction sites.

The law’s passage in 2017 followed a rising number of construction-related injuries and fatalities in New York City, according to the D.A.

Fines can be as much as $5,000 per untrained worker for the building owner, permit holder or employer.

Workers can meet the safety requirement by taking at least 40 hours of safety training, which can include OSHA-30 combined with Site Safety Training, which includes multiple elective courses, such as eight hours of fall-prevention training and two hours of drug and alcohol awareness training.

Training centers issue a wallet-sized SST card to workers who complete the 10 additional training hours. The cards are legally required for construction workers and supervisors on the larger and more complex worksites.

According to the D.A., more than 378,000 active SST identification cards have been issued by over 150 different approved training providers. They expire after five years and can be renewed by completing a DOB-approved refresher course.

“Building construction-related fatalities dropped to a nine-year-low in 2023, thanks in part to the city’s construction safety training requirements for workers on larger worksites,” said DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. “Construction safety training is helping to save lives, but the actions of these defendants could have undermined this progress in the interest of quick profits.”

What if You Have a Fake Card?

The NYC Department of Buildings “has suspended Valor Consulting and is conducting a further investigation into this course provider,” the DOB says on its website.

“The Department of Buildings strongly recommends that anyone holding a Site Safety Training Card issued by Valor be retrained by a different course provider immediately. Our investigation into the course provider is ongoing and may result in additional enforcement action against Valor, which may include revoking their status as a course provider. In the event their status as a course provider is revoked, Site Safety Training Cards they have issued will no longer be valid.”