The chief executive of a Fremont construction company was arrested at the San Francisco International Airport today on an involuntary manslaughter charge for the death of a carpenter at a construction site in Milpitas in January 2012.
Richard Liu, who was the subject of a $1 million arrest warrant, was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers immediately upon his arrival from China.
A Santa Clara County Grand Jury indicted Liu, his company U.S. Sino Investments, Inc., and project manager Dan Luo, 36, in August for an incident at a job site on Jan. 28, 2012, that killed construction worker Raul Zapata Mercado, 38.
Liu was in China at the time of the accident and hadn’t been back to the U.S. until today.
“He came back on his own,” said Bud Porter, a deputy district attorney, Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office. “This is great news for the prosecution because all the defendants will be tried together, rather than having one defendant in China and essentially untouchable.”
Porter said Liu’s attorney told the DA’s office when Liu would be coming back to the U.S. and Liu turned himself over to an investigator when he got off the plane.
The fatal incident that claimed Mercado’s life occurred at 814 Calaveras Ridge Drive in Milpitas. Mercado died when a retaining wall collapsed on him.
Unsafe conditions forced the city of Milpitas to issue a “stop work” order at the job site, but Lui’s company failed to obey the order and three days later the retaining wall collapsed, prosecutors said.
Liu was taken to the Santa Clara County Jail after he was arrested today. Both Liu and Luo each face up to four years in prison, Porter said. The company may face millions in fines.
“This case is about what happens when construction companies cut corners on safety,” said District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
“Workplace safety is not an option,” Rosen said. “What happened to Raul Zapata Mercado was not an accident, it was a crime.”
U.S. Sino Investments had its contractor’s license revoked since 2012 so “it’s not really doing business,” Porter said.
A court date in the case has been set for Nov. 17, according to prosecutors.
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