Worcester Area Plumber Sentenced on Child Endangerment, Illegal Asbestos Removal and Larceny Charges
Defendant Will Serve Jail Time, Plus Ordered to Pay Medical Bills of Endangered Child and Restitution to Elderly Victim
WORCESTER — A Worcester area plumbing and heating contractor has been sentenced in connection with child endangerment, illegal removal and disposal of asbestos, and for two instances of larcenous conduct for work performed in Worcester County, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The sentences are a result of two separate trials and guilty verdicts in Worcester Superior Court.
Superior Court Judge David Ricciardone sentenced Daniel Watterson, 43, to two years in the House of Correction, with 60 days to serve and the balance suspended for five years on the charge of child endangerment. Watterson was also sentenced to five years of probation in connection with the illegal asbestos removal and disposal. As a condition of probation, Watterson was ordered to pay the annual medical bills for the evaluation of asbestos related illnesses of the endangered child. Watterson was further ordered to pay $1,675 in restitution for the cost of cleaning up the site as a result of the illegally removed asbestos.
On June 16, after a five-day trial, a Worcester Superior Court jury found Watterson guilty on one count of Child Endangerment for directing a teenager to carry out an illegal asbestos removal and three charges of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act for Failure to File Notices of Asbestos Removal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), Improper Removal of Asbestos-Containing Material, and Improper Disposal of Asbestos-Containing Waste. This was the first use of the child endangerment statute in an asbestos case.
During a hearing today, Superior Court Judge Richard T. Tucker sentenced Watterson to one year in the House of Correction suspended for five years and five years probation on the charges of Larceny over $250 of a Victim over Sixty Years of Age and Larceny over $250 by False Pretenses. As a condition of probation Watterson was ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to the elderly victim. All sentences are to be served concurrently. On August 21, 2013, after a seven-day bench trial in Worcester Superior Court, Judge Tucker found Watterson guilty of those charges.
“This defendant put a minor at risk of exposure to millions of asbestos fibers by directing him to remove asbestos insulation without any protection,” said AG Coakley. “He also stole from vulnerable consumers by fraudulently billing them and charging them without their consent and has now been held responsible for these crimes.”
“Massachusetts has protective regulations that exist specifically in order to protect workers and the general public from the serious consequences of asbestos exposure,” said MassDEP Commissioner David W. Cash. “Watterson’s disregard of the law unconscionably exposed a teenager to asbestos fibers, and created the potential for public exposure.”
Watterson, a plumbing and heating contractor operates in the Worcester County area under the business names “The Clog Specialist,” “Dan the Clog Man,” “Dan the Heating Man,” and “DW Plumbing & Heating.”
Watterson illegally removed and disposed of asbestos from a Worcester residence in April 2008. Watterson was contracted to remove two old boilers from the residence and to install two new boilers.
Watterson directed a teenager to remove the asbestos insulation from the old boilers, to demolish the old boilers, and to dispose of the waste from the job. Under regulations of the MassDEP and the Division of Labor Standards, the removal of asbestos must be done by a licensed contractor utilizing personal protective equipment and air filtration machines, containing the area where the asbestos is removed, wetting the asbestos before removal, and giving advance notification to MassDEP regulations as to when the removal will occur.
Watterson gave the teenager no protective clothing, no respirator, and no protective equipment of any kind before directing him to carry out the asbestos removal. The teenager failed to wet the asbestos prior to its removal and crudely removed it from the boilers and pipes by ripping the insulation and chipping it with putty knives. He also demolished the asbestos coated boilers with a sledgehammer and a saw and then, at Watterson’s direction, disposed of the asbestos waste in a regular trash dumpster rented by Watterson.
On the larceny indictments, Watterson was convicted of charging an elderly customer's credit card $1,500 without his consent, and of taking advantage of another couple by overbilling them for repair of a boiler. Watterson charged the couple $500 for replacing a nozzle that cost $3.25.
Today’s sentences stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by AG Coakley, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett, and MassDEP Commissioner Cash. The Strike Force comprises prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the AG’s Office, and investigators and engineers from MassDEP who investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
The case was prosecuted by Andrew Rainer, Chief of the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, and Assistant Attorney General Michael Pine with assistance from Ashley Cinelli of the Victim Witness Services Division. ECSF officials involved in this investigation included officers of the Massachusetts Environmental Police and MassDEP officials Donald Heeley and Gregory Levins.