FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENRD
TUESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2001(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
TWO MEN INDICTED IN CONSPIRACY TO USE HOMELESS MEN
FOR ILLEGAL ASBESTOS REMOVAL IN VIRGINIA
WASHINGTON, D.C. A federal grand jury in Charlottesville, Va., today returned an indictment charging two men with conspiring to illegally remove asbestos from aging buildings. The defendants recruited untrained homeless men to remove asbestos from properties in Staunton, Va., without providing the necessary safety equipment or training.
The indictment charges David Stephen Klein, 47, of Heathrow, Fla., with illegally removing and disposing of asbestos, failing to notify federal and state regulators of the asbestos work; and conspiracy to commit those offenses. Klein operated Davold Real Estate Partnership, which owned commercial buildings in the Staunton area, including the Masonic and the Towne Centre buildings.
The indictment also charges Josef Gene Weiss, Jr., 48, of Harrisonburg, Va.., with identical counts. Weiss was employed by Klein to oversee the renovations, according to the indictment.
From about 1996 to 1998, Weiss is alleged to have recruited workers from the Staunton Valley Mission, a shelter for homeless individuals, to remove asbestos from buildings owned by Klein and Davold Partnership. These individuals had no training in proper asbestos abatement methods and they lacked proper safety equipment, according to the indictment.
Asbestos is regulated under the Clean Air Act as a hazardous air pollutant. Exposure to asbestos can cause life-threatening diseases, including lung cancer, scarring of the lungs, and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and heart.
Under Clean Air Act regulations, asbestos-containing materials must be removed from demolition and renovation sites in accordance with specific procedures and work practices. Among other things, workers must wet asbestos insulation before stripping it off pipes; seal asbestos debris in leak-tight containers while still wet, to prevent the release of asbestos dust; and dispose of asbestos-contaminated material at an approved hazardous waste facility.
According to the indictment, Klein and Weiss routinely oversaw the progress of the asbestos removal in Klein's buildings. Weiss allegedly directed workers to improperly gather the asbestos waste after it was removed and to put it into plastic trash bags. He then told the workers to dump the bags in Dumpsters and other locations in and around Staunton, Va., in violation of federal asbestos-disposal regulations.
This investigation was conducted by the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the Staunton, Va. Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia and the Environment Division of the Justice Department.