Property Management Firm Pleads Guilty to Illegal Asbestos Removal Charges
Main Street Properties, Inc. pled guilty on Monday and was sentenced in Worcester Superior Court on criminal charges of violating the Clean Air Act by failing to file notices of asbestos removal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), and improper removal of asbestos waste. Superior Court Judge James R. Lemire ordered the defendant to pay a $50,000 fine to the Commonwealth. The fine was paid in full yesterday. The Grand Jury returned indictments against the company on March 11, 2010.
"When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they can get trapped in the lungs and lead to serious respiratory problems," said AG Coakley. "Clean Air laws were established to ensure that a known carcinogen, like asbestos, is removed during construction projects in a manner that eliminates exposure. We are pleased that the defendant has agreed to undertake widespread inspections of his family's properties to determine if asbestos is present and to pay civil penalties."
"Property Managers that try to save money by circumventing asbestos regulations will be prosecuted appropriately to protect workers and the public. The majority of companies engaged in demolition and construction work, play by the rules, act responsibly and should not be undercut by scofflaws who put profit above the law," said MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Director Pamela Talbot.
A Worcester Grand Jury also issued indictments last month against Jonathan Gabriel, age 46, of Hammertime Construction, the demolition contractor that 240 Main Street Properties hired to gut the interior of its building, which is located across the street from Worcester Superior Court. Authorities allege that the work began in the fall of 2007 and during construction asbestos was illegally removed from the building. Investigators also allege that the windows of the building were left open during construction, risking a release to the public of asbestos fibers, a known carcinogen. Gabriel was arraigned today in Worcester Superior Court where he entered a plea of not guilty. Judge Peter Agnes was released Gabriel on the condition that he not perform demolition work involving asbestos during the pendency of the case. He is scheduled to appear in Worcester Superior Court on May 7 for a pre-trial conference.
In a separate but related matter, the Attorney General's Office also filed a civil complaint and a settlement in Worcester Superior Court on Monday against Barry Krock, the husband of 240 Main St. Properties President Janet Krock. The complaint was filed against Krock for arranging the improper demolition and removal of asbestos-containing materials from the property at 240 Main Street in Worcester in 2007. Under the terms of the settlement, Krock paid $32,000 to the Commonwealth for civil penalties and $22,400 for the costs of prosecution. The settlement, which requires payments totaling $100,000, also requires Krock to take steps to ensure that asbestos and lead paint inspections are done on several other substantial properties his family owns in Worcester.
The charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (ECSF), an interagency unit that includes prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General's Office, and investigators and engineers from the MassDEP. The Environmental Crimes Strike Force investigates and prosecutes crimes that harm or threaten the state's water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
MassDEP inspected 240 Main St. in August 2008, immediately after being informed of the demolition work there, and issued a stop work order shortly after those inspections were conducted after finding asbestos-containing materials in the building. 240 Main Street Properties, Inc. thereafter retained licensed asbestos contractors to remove the asbestos found in the property.
Under the Clean Air Act, owners and operators of demolition and/or renovations projects involving asbestos containing material are required to provide MassDEP with ten days notice of the work to be performed and a description of the proposed operation that includes the estimated amount of asbestos involved, the name of the environmental company hired to properly remove the asbestos, and the name of the disposal facility they intend to use. Authorities allege that no such notification was made, and that improper procedures were used to remove asbestos-containing materials in the building.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of Attorney General Coakley's Environmental Crimes Strike Force, is prosecuting the case. Investigators Greg Levins and Don Heeley of MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester joined with the Massachusetts Environmental Police to conduct the investigation into this case.