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Nanuet Roofing Company Principal Sentenced to Four Months in Prison for OSHA Violations Leading to Employee’s Death

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced on Wednesday that Jose Lema, also known as “Jose Lema Mizhirumbay,” the founder and principal of ALJ Home Improvement, Inc., has been sentenced to four months in prison for willfully violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. This violation resulted in the death of an employee on February 8, 2022, in New Square, New York. U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith C. McCarthy handed down the sentence.

Lema had previously pled guilty to one count of willfully violating OSHA regulations on February 26, 2024.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams emphasized the gravity of Lema’s actions, stating, “Jose Lema endangered the safety of his workers by disregarding regulations and failing to ensure his employees used fall protection systems. This conduct led to the death of a roof worker on a construction site. Today’s sentence should send a message to small businesses that failure to comply with safety regulations endangers workers and can lead to unnecessary and preventable tragedy, and this Office will hold you accountable.”

According to court documents and statements made during the proceedings, on the morning of February 8, 2022, Lema dispatched Victim-1 and three other ALJ employees to install a roof on a three-story multi-family apartment building under construction in New Square. Lema failed to ensure his employees were protected from fall hazards, as they were working without fall protection. Tragically, Victim-1 fell to the ground after ascending a ladder to the roof and succumbed to his injuries.

This incident was not the first time ALJ employees had been exposed to such hazards. On February 27, 2019, another ALJ employee died after slipping off the roof of a newly constructed three-story home in Kiamesha Lake, New York. Between these two fatal incidents, OSHA investigated ALJ and issued multiple citations for failing to ensure employee safety at six other worksites. Even after Victim-1’s death, OSHA continued to find and cite ALJ for safety violations at other worksites.

In her sentencing remarks, Judge McCarthy highlighted the avoidable nature of Victim-1’s death and Lema’s persistent non-compliance with fall protection regulations, even after the first fatality.

In addition to the prison term, Lema, 41, of Nanuet, New York, was sentenced to one year of supervised release.

Mr. Williams commended the efforts of OSHA, the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, and the Special Agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in their investigation and prosecution of the case. The prosecution was handled by the Office’s White Plains Division, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Margery Feinzig leading the case.

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