New York Men Jailed for 'Rip and Run' Asbestos Removals

UTICA, New York, February 16, 2009 (ENS) – A federal judge has sentenced two operators of asbestos abatement companies to prison for environmental crimes related to the illegal removal and disposal of asbestos in upstate New York.

U.S. District Judge David Hurd for the Northern District of New York handed John Wood of Plattsburgh a four year prison term and sentenced him to pay restitution of $854,166 to victims. Wood will be placed on supervised release for three years when he is released from prison.

The judge gave Curtis Collins of Willsboro a two year sentence, ordered him to pay $114,900 in restitution to victims and further ordered him to serve three years of supervised release.

Asbestos removal must meet strict standards designed to protect public and worker health. (Photo credit unknown)

Both defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act and the mail fraud statute. Wood further pleaded guilty to contempt of court based on numerous new asbestos crimes that he committed while awaiting trial on the original charges.

In 2005, after being released from prison for unrelated felonies, Wood began operating an asbestos abatement company known as J & W Construction, Inc., according to the U.S. Justice Department.

An investigation conducted by special agents of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with assistance from inspectors with the New York State Department of Labor’s Asbestos Control Bureau, uncovered Wood’s illegal activities.

Wood directed his employees to perform “rip and run” asbestos removals that, rather than removing all asbestos, dispersed and left substantial quantities behind, contaminating numerous businesses and homes. Some of the asbestos was buried on a farm in Willsboro that required the expenditure from the U.S. EPA’s Superfund to clean up.

The U.S. EPA has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. When inhaled, the fibrous mineral causes lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. Asbestos diseases may exist for decades before they are diagnosed, making treatment difficult.

To deceive clients into believing that all of the asbestos had been removed and that their businesses and homes were safe to reoccupy, Wood utilized the services of Mark Desnoyers, a licensed air monitor from Plattsburgh. Desnoyers was the owner of Adirondack Environmental Associates.

Desnoyers falsified air samples so that laboratory results appeared to prove that all asbestos had been removed from homes and businesses when in fact they remained seriously contaminated.

Wood testified against Desnoyers during a two-week long trial last September.

Collins worked for Wood and also ran Adirondack Asbestos. He pleaded guilty and cooperated with the U.S. Justice Department by testifying against Desnoyers at trial.

Desnoyers was convicted of all counts of an indictment charging him with a Clean Air Act and mail fraud conspiracy and related violations. Desnoyers goes before Judge Hurd for sentencing on March 13.

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