Manhattan, New York
A former employee of a company that owned a crane that collapsed two years ago on the Upper East Side and killed two people has pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and agreed to testify against his former boss.
By pleading guilty, the former employee, Tibor Varganyi, will avoid a second-degree manslaughter charge that carried a potential 15-year prison sentence. Mr. Varganyi, 65, could be spared jail time if he cooperates with the prosecution of James F. Lomma, the owner of New York Crane and Equipment Corporation, according to a transcript of an Oct. 5 hearing.
The hearing in State Supreme Court in Manhattan was closed to the public at the request of Mr. Varganyi’s lawyer, Matthew J. Brief. It had been moved up from its previously scheduled date, and details of the hearing were obtained through the publicly available transcript. Mr. Brief declined to comment.
On Wednesday, lawyers for Mr. Lomma and his companies — New York Crane and J. F. Lomma Inc., which also face charges — appeared in court to schedule a trial for next month.
Andrew M. Lankler, Mr. Lomma’s lawyer, said, “In the end, the evidence will demonstrate that no one at New York Crane, including Mr. Varganyi, violated any criminal laws.”
During the Oct. 5 hearing, Mr. Varganyi admitted that in May 2007, he was commissioned by Mr. Lomma to have the turntables of some of the company’s cranes repaired. Mr. Varganyi passed on two companies in the United States that could have repaired the turntables because Mr. Lomma, 65, thought they would have taken too long, according to the transcript.
So Mr. Varganyi found a manufacturer in China, RTR, to do the repairs, even though a sales manager with RTR at one point warned that it should not do the welding, the transcript said. Mr. Varganyi also testified that he did not have a degree in engineering or the training in manufacturing that was needed.
“Neither you or, as far as you know, Lomma or anyone else who worked for Lomma, arranged to have the weld that was performed by RTR tested to ensure its quality?” Deborah Hickey, an assistant district attorney, said in the transcript.
Mr. Varganyi agreed.
The weld cracked while the crane was being operated on May 30, 2008, prosecutors said, causing the crane to fall and kill the operator, Donald C. Leo, and another construction worker, Ramadan Kurtaj.
Mr. Lomma and his comapnies face charges of second-degree manslaughter, assault, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.