INDUSTRY INSIDER | July 11, 2024

Valor Security Indicted for Fraudulent Safety Training of Over 20,000 Students

Original Source: Our Town

In 2022, Ivan Frias was killed in an accident at a construction site on the Upper West Side. Now, Valor, the company that claimed to have provided Frias with his safety training, has been indicted for fraudulently certifying approximately 20,000 students over the course of three and a half years.

From December 2019 to April 2023, Valor Security and Investigations issued false certifications stating that students completed 40 hours of mandatory construction training in exchange for a fee. During its operating time period, Valor was the third biggest producer of safety certifications in New York City.

In the press release following the indictment, District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg mentioned the 2022 tragedy, “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. With our partners at DOI and DOB, we are determined to root out fraud, especially when it puts New Yorkers at risk. We will not let harm come to workers because companies want to turn a quick profit,” he said.

Frias allegedly received ten hours of safety training, filed by Valor, which included eight hours of fall protection. However, he had never actually underwent any of the supposed training. The 36-year old was killed when he fell from the 15th floor of a construction site at 263 West End Avenue. Five Valor employees– President Alexander Shaporov, Compliance Director Marina Balzer, General Manager Nigina Zokirova, Director of Business Development Rimma Chakhalyan, and broker Luz Barbra– were each charged by the New York State Supreme Court with one count of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree.

Shaporov, Balzer, Zokirova, and Chakhalyan were also charged with enterprise corruption along with Training Director Richard Marini and Instructor Eliot Sosinov. This included 261 acts related to their scheme.

Records show that Shaporov gained $1 million in Zelle payments from the operation which were deposited into his own account.

D.A. Bragg also stressed the gravity of safety in construction, “In the construction industry, fraud can mean life or death – not only for the individuals working on the site, but for the general public that moves around them every single day. 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,” he said.

The company charged between $300 to $600 for the filing of a single basic safety training card. Evidence of these transactions was found in both email and text exchanges between Valor employees and “brokers” who filed the cards. “[h]ow fast could I obtain a 40 hour safety training certification,” “tomorrow after 5pm,” reads one of the exchanges. Another: “40 SST and whoever doesn’t have OSHA MAKE ONE UP.”

Valor filed documents with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stating that instructors had taught safety courses in Brooklyn despite the fact that they were in other states at the time. The company also claimed that the instructors had been working in different states on the same day.

Undercover investigators received safety certifications within an hour with absolutely no training classes after purchasing 40-hour certificates. Some certificates found even listed the last names of students as “LNU,” meaning last name unknown.

New York City’s Department of Investigations (DOI) Commissioner Jocelyn Stauber reinforced the DOI’s commitment to the safety of the city, “DOI, our law enforcement partners at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and the City Department of Buildings are committed to maintaining safety standards in this critical industry and to holding accountable those who would jeopardize workers and the public for profit. To that end, DOI has issued, and DOB has accepted, a series of recommendations intended to strengthen DOB’s oversight of safety training providers, course instructors, and the entire safety training process,” she said.

James S. Oddo, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Buildings lightened the situation with safety statistics in the past year, “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 work sites. 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,” he said.

The arraignments are still ongoing at this time.