A 49-year-old senior project manager for a roofing contractor was indicted on April 19 on three charges that he made false, fictitious and fraudulent statements to federal OSHA investigators. The Department of Justice accuses Peter Nees of lying to OSHA investigators during the inspection that resulted from a fatality at a Jacksonville, Florida, roofing project. Nees faces three counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001, which concerns false statements and concealment, and a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison, if convicted on all counts.

The underlying inspection arose when roofer John W. Miles III fell through a skylight at a Jacksonville warehouse. Mr. Miles was admitted to an area hospital and later died as a result of his injuries. OSHA’s inspectors responded to the scene to investigate, and ultimately cited Miles’ employer, Pinnacle Roofing Contractors Inc., for failing to install protective cages over the skylights. OSHA issued two willful citations and proposed penalties totaling $154,000.

Peter Nees was the senior project manager for Pinnacle Roofing. The Department of Justice now claims that he made “false, fictitious and fraudulent material statements and representations” on three different occasions during OSHA’s investigation. Nees claimed that he did not alter the accident scene, but the indictment alleges that “in truth and fact, he knew those statements were false.”

The press release issued in connection with Nees’ indictment emphasized that an indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of federal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty. But the indictment alone is a scathing reminder to employers of the golden rule when dealing with any federal investigation: Tell the truth. Otherwise, employees who meet with OSHA during the investigation could face federal charges of their own.