Kerry siblings found guilty of fraud face up to 20 years in US jail 

Kerry siblings found guilty of fraud face up to 20 years in US jail 

Donal O'Sullivan, founder, owner, and president of Navillus, one of New York city’s largest construction firms, was convicted of multiple counts of fraud after a three-week trial in Brooklyn.

Three executives of a large US construction company which was founded by a Kerry family face up to 20 years in jail after being found guilty of fraud.

Donal O’Sullivan, 60, the founder of Navillus Contracting, his sister Helen O'Sullivan, 61, the payroll administrator, both with addresses in Queens, New York, and the company's financial comptroller, Padraig Naughton, 49, with an address in New York, faced charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, embezzlement from employee benefits funds, submission of false remittance reports to union benefits funds, and conspiracy to commit those crimes.

All three were convicted in a federal court in Brooklyn on Friday after a jury returned guilty verdicts against Mr O’Sullivan, the founder, owner and president of Navillus, one of New York city’s largest construction firms, Mr Naughton, and Ms O’Sullivan, on all 11 counts.

The verdicts followed a three-week trial before United States District Judge Pamela K Chen.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the verdict in a statement.

“As found by the jury, the defendants deliberately devised a fraudulent scheme to avoid making required contributions to union benefits funds on behalf of Navillus’ workers, in order to deprive the workers of benefits they had earned and deserved,” Mr Peace said.

This office and its law enforcement partners will continue to investigate and prosecute these types of blatant frauds that are harmful to workers. 

Mr Peace said Navillus was a signatory to multiple collective bargaining agreements that required the company to make contributions to union benefits funds, such as health, pension, and vacation funds, for all 'covered work' performed by its workers at various construction sites.

However, between 2011 and 2017, the defendants engaged in a scheme to avoid making these required contributions by placing some of Navillus’s workers on the payroll of another company — the 'consulting company'.

It was this company that then issued weekly paycheques to those Navillus workers for work they did on Navillus construction jobs.

To conceal the scheme from benefits fund auditors, the defendants caused the consulting company to issue fraudulent invoices to disguise the fact that the funds Navillus had issued to the consulting firm were made to reimburse the consulting company for the wages the consulting company had paid to Navillus workers.

Mr Peace expressed his thanks to the agents and investigators of the FBI’s New York Field Office, the US Department of Labor’s office of inspector general, and its employee benefits security administration, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Homeland Security Investigations for their work on the case.

Navillus Contracting is one of New York's biggest construction companies and was founded more than 30 years ago by Donal, Leonard, and Kevin O'Sullivan from Ballinskelligs.

Artist's impression of the proposed Prism Building in Cork, a project planned by Kevin O'Sullivan, brother of Donal O'Sullivan. File Picture
Artist's impression of the proposed Prism Building in Cork, a project planned by Kevin O'Sullivan, brother of Donal O'Sullivan. File Picture

It has been involved in several high-profile projects, including the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York city, and it had multi-million contracts on several other major skyscraper projects in New York.

Donal O’Sullivan, who now faces jail, was a passive investor with his brother, Kevin O’Sullivan, who, through his firm, Tower Holdings Group, is behind plans for Ireland’s tallest building on the former Port of Cork Custom House site in the heart of Cork city.

The ambitious 34-storey hotel and heritage project on Custom House Quay, at the confluence of the two channels of the river Lee, has planning permission from Bórd Pleanála but work on site has yet to start.

The same firm is also behind plans for the €20m 15-storey Prism office building close to Parnell Place, also in Cork city.

The building design is inspired by the famous 22-storey Flatiron building in New York.

Site clearance and preparatory work started on the site near Cork's main bus station in early 2020 in the hope that construction would be finished by the end of this year.

But work was halted by the various Covid-19 lockdowns.

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