The owner of an area roofing company was indicted on charges of lying to federal authorities investigating the death of an employee who fell 45 feet from roof scaffolding in Philadelphia on June 21, 2013.

James J. McCullagh, 60, the owner of James J. McCullagh Roofing Inc., was accused of ordering two employees to tell federal investigators that they, and the man who died, had been given fall protection, including safety harnesses, when he knew they had not.

The indictment was handed up Thursday by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia.

The crew and the man who died, Mark T. Smith, 52, of Northeast Philadelphia, had been working at the Old Zion Lutheran Church on North Broad Street in Philadelphia.

Four of the five counts in the indictment allege that McCullagh told investigators from the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration that his crew had the proper fall protection, when he knew that was false. The fifth was for obstruction of justice.

McCullagh, of Meadowbrook, who had an office in Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment. "No comment at this time," said his lawyer, Michael McDermott, in an email.

If convicted, McCullagh faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, three years of supervised release, $1.5 million in fines, and a $510 special assessment.

McCullagh had been cited by OSHA in January 2014 for 10 safety violations, including three willful violations.

The violations, which carried penalties of $71,600, were for the company's failure to ensure that one employee, not two, worked on scaffolding intended to support one worker and for failing to make sure the scaffolding was not overloaded.

The company also was cited for improperly erecting scaffolding and for failing to provide proper personal fall-arrest systems.

"Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. It's no secret how critical fall protection is to saving worker's lives," Robert D. Kulick, acting OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia, said in a statement.

"Employers who fail to fulfill their legal responsibilities to provide safe and healthy workplaces, who provide false statements to OSHA, and who coerce their employees to provide false statements will be prosecuted," he said.

jvonbergen@phillynews.com

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@JaneVonBergen

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