In the rough-and-tumble world of Manhattan highrise construction, John Mingione has found himself in a high-profile legal scrape.
The 54 year-old CEO of mid-sized Omnibuild Construction was indicted Wednesday, accused of falsifying business records and conspiring to commit felony theft at a luxury condo development formerly known as the XI, now called One High Line, at 76 11th Avenue in West Chelsea.
Mingione pleaded not guilty following a three-year investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg into possible illegality at the XI project, the ultra-luxury condo development that dealt the death blow to HFZ Capital Group.
“We absolutely maintain our innocence,” said Josh Vlasto, an Omnibuild spokesperson. The construction management firm was indicted alongside Mingione as a defendant in the case, although Omnibuild and Mingione were not accused of profiting from the alleged theft.
“Even though Omnibuild is in the same indictment as HFZ, three counts of that indictment allege that HFZ stole from Omnibuild and others,” Vlasto said. “This is in addition to the three other indictments charging HFZ alone.”
After entering his plea, Mingione was greeted in the hallways of the Manhattan criminal courthouse by an enthusiastic throng of laborers, one of whom wore an Omnibuild polo shirt.
“Let’s go home, John,” one supporter said, before exchanging high-fives. The supporters had arrived at the courthouse in the morning, and returned in the afternoon for his court appearance.
Mingione, who maintains a relatively high public profile, has been interviewed by numerous media outlets. And he didn’t shy away from using his media training following his indictment.
“I want to thank my family, friends and colleagues at Omnibuild for their support and dedication,” Mingione told The Real Deal. “I am so proud of the incredible company we have built together and know that the team will continue to thrive, working hard with our long standing customers, partners and subcontractors.”
The CEO’s alleged co-conspirator was Nir Mier, the embattled former HFZ executive who is accused of having illegally moved money between construction projects in an effort to cover financial shortfalls.
“Champagne taste and beer pockets,” is how Mingione described Mier and HFZ in 2020, after Omnibuild had left the project, disgruntled over poor financial management.
“It doesn’t work,” Mignione said at the time. “Something’s got to give.”
One thing that gave, according to prosecutors, was Mingione.
Facing a $37 million shortfall on the XI project owed to Omnibuild and its subcontractors, Mingione is accused of signing financial documents with inflated subcontractor costs, and of telling a subcontractor to go along with the scheme in order to get paid.
“Besides fighting for owners, he would fight for the subs,” Gandolfo Schiavone, an HVAC subcontractor who worked on the XI, said of Mingione. “The reason why most of the subs that were on that job would go to hell and back for the guy is because he would fight for them.”
Omnibuild placed a $100 million lien on the XI project due to payment shortfalls by HFZ. The lien was discontinued once a new lender came onto the project, and completed by developers Steve Witkoff and Len Blavatnik. Omnibuild maintains that it lost millions of dollars on the XI.
Mingione launched his firm in 2007, according to the Omnibuild’s website. In 2010, it began a partnership with Cava Construction, founded by Carmine Della Cava, the driver for the boss of the Genovese crime syndicate in the mid-1980s, when the mafia’s presence in Manhattan’s construction industry was rampant.
Omnibuild put Della Cava into retirement when it bought his construction firm in 2015.
Today, Omnibuild appears to be on the rise, with Mingione and co-CEO Peter Serpico named among the industry’s most powerful players in 2023.
Still, Mingione’s construction firm has coped with setbacks along the way, including at 644 East 14th Street in the East Village, where neighbors have accused developer Madison Capital Realty of displacing 17 families from an adjacent rent stabilized building.
Madison Capital claims the damage to the building next door predated its 200,000-square-foot construction project. Omnibuild is not a party to numerous lawsuits launched over the project.
But Mingione has had other legal troubles. Before he founded Omnibuild, Mingione was a member of the city’s carpenters union. In 2002, he pleaded not guilty in a conspiracy case brought by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Mingione was convicted for a scheme that allowed nonunion contractors onto union job sites, and deprived the carpenters union of $1 million in retirement contributions.
Keith Larsen contributed reporting.