WASHINGTON— 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, the Justice Department announced.
John Wood of Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Curtis Collins, of Willsboro, N.Y., were sentenced on Feb. 6, 2009, to four years and two years in prison, respectively, by U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd for the Northern District of New York.
Wood was further sentenced to pay restitution $854,166.06 to victims and was placed on supervised release for three years following the completion of his prison term. Collins was ordered to pay $114, 902.89 in restitution to victims and ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
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, John Wood began operating an asbestos abatement company known as J & W Construction, Inc. Wood thereafter directed his employees to perform “rip and run” asbestos removals that, rather than removing all asbestos, dispersed and left substantial quantities behind, significantly contaminating numerous businesses and homes. Some of the asbestos was buried on a farm in Willsboro that required the expenditure of funds from EPA’s Superfund to clean up the contamination.
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 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 at trial last September.
Curtis Collins worked for Wood and also ran his own asbestos abatement business. Collins pleaded guilty and cooperated with the United States 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 substantive violations. Desnoyers is scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, 2009 at 11 a.m. before Judge Hurd in Utica, N.Y.
Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
The investigation of this matter was conducted by Special Agents of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with assistance from Inspectors with the New York State Department of Labor (Asbestos Control Bureau). The matter was jointly prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York.