Ex-city buildings inspector busted for selling fake OSHA safety certificates for high-rise work

A former city buildings inspector was busted Friday for selling fake safety training certificates required to work on high-rises.

The arrest of Michael Dinardo, 52, comes after a series of Daily News probes uncovered a thriving black market in the coveted certificates, which are issued through the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Dinardo, a Buildings Department inspector from 2004 to 2007, was charged in Manhattan Federal Court with selling 47 training cards to city Investigations Department undercover agents who did not complete any training.

The city requires that all hardhats working on buildings of 15 stories or more complete a 10-hour OSHA-approved training course. Workers in certain high-risk operations, including tower crane operators, are required to complete 30 hours of safety training.

Dinardo, an OSHA-authorized instructor for the 10- and 30-hour courses, trafficked in those cards as well as certificates for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER), in which he had no training.

In January, Dinardo provided undercover investigators with a price list: $100 for a 10-hour card; $275 for a 30-hour card and $325 for a HAZWOPER certificate, prosecutors said.

Dinardo faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of conspiracy to defraud OSHA.

In a series of reports in the last two years, the Daily News has uncovered widespread fraud in OSHA safety training. Of the four people nationwide whose trainer status has been revoked by OSHA for fraud, three were first exposed by the Daily News.

The Daily News launched its first probe after a bogus training certificate surfaced in the hands of an unqualified worker at a trouble-plagued luxury condo in Chelsea only days after Mayor Bloomberg announced the cards would be required for all tower crane operators.

The trainer, Tyrone Nichols, was barred after the News broke the story in June 2008.

OSHA revoked the status of the other two, Darell Inniss and Grover Drakeford, after a Daily News reporter infiltrated their training class, held in the backroom of a Bronx bar. After two hours, with breaks for beer, he was issued an OSHA card certifying he’d received 10 hours training.

OSHA cited the Daily News sting in a memo to its training centers announcing beefed up new guidelines designed to thwart fraud.

New measures include more spot checks of training and the creation of a watchlist of disciplined trainers. But abuses continue.

Last July, a School Construction Authority investigator bought six fake OSHA cards, and a month later The News uncovered another bogus training card – signed by barred trainer Tyrone Nichols – in the hands of an immigrant worker who said he had received no training.

Another disgraced New York trainer, Larry Fontanez, was indicted in Queens in 2008. Charged with possession of a forged instrument, a bogus OSHA card, he is scheduled to appear in Queens Supreme Court on March 25.

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