The owner of a New York-based roofing firm pled guilty in federal court to willfully violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations that resulted in the death of an employee.

Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Jose Lema, AKA Jose Lema Mizhirumbay, founder and principal of ALJ Home Improvement Inc., entered a guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith C. McCarthy.

Lema, 41, of Nanuet, NY, is charged with one count of willful violation of OSHA regulations resulting in death, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing has been scheduled for May 22.

“Jose Lema endangered the safety of his workers by disregarding regulations and failing to ensure his employees used fall protection systems,” said Williams. “This conduct led to the tragically avoidable death of a roof worker at a construction site.”

According to investigations, on the morning of Feb. 8, 2022, Lema sent an ALJ employee and three other employees to install a roof on a three-story, multi-family apartment building under construction in New Square, NY. Lema failed to protect his employees from fall hazards by having them work on the roof at the worksite without fall protection.

After ascending a ladder to the roof, the employee reportedly fell to the ground and died from his injuries.

This wasn’t the first time an employee of ALJ fell to their death. Around Feb. 27, 2019, an ALJ employee slipped off the roof of a newly constructed three-story home in Kiamesha Lake, NY.

Lema was arrested last July at his home on a charge of knowingly and willfully violating OSHA regulations. In November 2023, the Department of Labor obtained a consent injunction ordering Lema and his company to provide employees with fall protection equipment.

OSHA investigated and issued citations to ALJ numerous times for failing to ensure employees were using fall protection systems following the 2019 and 2022 deaths. In 2022, OSHA proposed a fine of $1.3 million to ALJ Home Improvement following its investigation.

“Failure of small businesses to comply with safety regulations endangers workers and can lead to unnecessary and preventable tragedy, and this Office will hold them accountable,” Williams said.