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Two New Yorkers – including a former pro-football player – are facing federal criminal charges accusing them of numerous violations of the Clean Air Act, relating to three projects in which they are accused of improperly handling asbestos.
Our mesothelioma attorneys understand that the charges they face carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Now, on the surface, it would hardly seem fair that a poor job on a construction might warrant a 20-year prison sentence. But it makes a lot more sense when you consider that it will probably take at least that long to know whether their actions in exposing others to asbestos may have resulted in a fatal mesothelioma diagnosis.
Mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, is caused by airborne asbestos and is not typically detected until decades after the initial exposure. This case is indicative of a phenomenon that we’ve seen in recent years. In far too many cases, contractors improperly remove asbestos, exposing employees and innocent bystanders to risk. In other cases, asbestos removal companies are cutting corners, not properly handling or disposing of asbestos, and likewise exposing victims to undue risk.
While asbestos isn’t formally banned in the U.S., there are strict regulations on how it must be handled. Still, criminal prosecution for violations are relatively rare.
The majority of mesothelioma litigation focuses on a monetary award or settlement. The executives and CEOs of the companies that sickened hundreds of thousands of people back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s will likely never see a day in prison. But these companies are only now facing the liability, when victims are diagnosed decades after exposure.
According to the U.S. Justice Department Press release:
Sean P. Doctor, a former Buffalo Bills fullback, and Raj Chopra, both of Grand Island, N.Y., owned two companies – S.D. Specialty Services, LLC and Comprehensive Employee Management Inc.
From the summer of 2009 to the spring of 2011, prosecutors say the two conspired to defraud the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as violate the Clean Air Act, by using a 40-yard closed container in the 1800 block of Love Road to improperly transport and keep asbestos waste material.
Specifically, the two oversaw the transportation of asbestos from various cites to the waste container, where other asbestos waste was contained. None of this was done properly or in accordance with specific guidelines set forth by the Clean Air Act, according to the allegations.
Why wouldn’t they comply with the law?
In short, it’s cheaper – the same reason so many other companies continued to use asbestos products long after they knew it was harmful to their workers and consumers.
In addition to these actions, the two are also accused of committing insurance fraud by failing to properly classify workers as being employed to handle asbestos waste. The reason they would do this is because by classifying these employees as clerical workers, as opposed to asbestos removal workers, they could pay reduced insurance premiums. Ultimately, this resulted in a savings to the companies of about $195,000.
Doctor and the company are accused of conducting numerous asbestos abatement projects – one for a park shelter in the City of Buffalo and several more for vacant homes on Grant Street – for which he did not follow proper procedure.
The two were indicted after a multi-agency investigation that involved the EPA’s criminal division, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police, the New York State Department of Labor and the Asbestos Control Bureau.
Specifically, the two are charged with:
- Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and violate the Clean Air Act;
- Conspiracy to commit mail fraud;
- Substantive counts of mail fraud.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
TWO INDIVIDUALS AND TWO CORPORATIONS INDICTED ON CHARGES RELATED TO VIOLATIONS OF THE CLEAN AIR ACT & MAIL FRAUD, Sept. 27, 2012, Press Release, Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., Western District of New York
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