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AFSCME member helps crack nation’s largest prevailing wage theft case

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announces the multi-million dollar theft charges against Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., in April 2021. (Photo credit: PA Office of Attorney General)
AFSCME member helps crack nation’s largest prevailing wage theft case
By William Kauffman, AFSCME Council 13 ·

Throughout Supervisory Narcotics Agent Tom Moore’s 23-year law enforcement career, he has worked cases involving drugs, child abuse, and murder.

Recently, the AFSCME Local 2245 (Council 13) member found himself as the lead agent in an investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office into the largest prevailing wage theft in U.S. history.

When Moore got the assignment, one question immediately came to mind: “What’s prevailing wage?”

The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act and the federal Davis-Bacon Act were enacted to level the playing field and protect workers by ensuring that all contractors working on projects that receive state or federal funding pay the same wage rates, which can include benefits such as health care and retirement contributions to employees.

As a result of the Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s investigation, Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., one of the largest contractors to complete projects on behalf of the commonwealth, was sentenced for theft relating to violations of the Prevailing Wage Act and the Davis-Bacon Act. The company must pay $20,696,453 in restitution to 1,267 affected workers and faces several other conditions, including probation and supervision.

“It’s great that the victims were able to get money back in their pockets. They worked hard for that money, and it was taken from them,” Moore said.

Moore credits the success of the investigation largely to the many people he worked with to make it happen, including some fellow AFSCME members, as well as Fraternal Order of Police members and other agents who picked through the complexities of the case.

“I’m not a financial guy, so there’s a lot of help from other aspects of our office that actually contributed a lot to the investigation, so I don’t want you guys to think it was just me,” he said. “It’s truly a group effort.”

According to the Office of the Attorney General, Hawbaker Inc. committed theft by funneling money intended for prevailing wage workers’ retirement funds to the retirement accounts for all Hawbaker Inc. employees – including the owners and executives. The company was also charged with stealing funds intended for prevailing wage workers’ health and welfare benefits and using them to subsidize the cost of the self-funded health insurance plan that covers all employees. The company disguised its scheme by artificially inflating its costs by millions of dollars each year and claiming credit for prohibited costs.

According to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity, thousands of American companies illegally underpay their workers through a variety of tactics, often without punishment.

“If Pennsylvanians step up to report wage theft, know that my office is here to help. We will advocate for you,” Shapiro said. “If we find another business employing these kinds of schemes, we will fight to get the full paychecks you’ve earned.”

Moore has enjoyed the challenges that his work for the Pennsylvania attorney general has presented since he joined the department in 2008. Before that, he served as a detective for Cambria County starting in 2004, and as an officer in Cresson, Pennsylvania, starting in 1998.

“Working for the attorney general’s office has been great ever since I started here because of the fact you get involved in stuff like this,” Moore said. “Whether it’s drug work or getting involved in homicides or getting involved in wage theft, there are a lot of opportunities to help citizens across the commonwealth.”

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