Two Individuals Sentenced for Criminal Violations
of the Clean Air Act
Two men from the Bay City, Michigan area, Brian Waite, 38, and Daniel Clements, 28 were sentenced this week for criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, announced Barbara L. McQuade, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by Randall Ashe, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement program in Michigan.
In July 2011, Waite and Clements were indicted on charges of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and knowingly violating the federal asbestos laws. The offenses arose from the defendants' participation in the illegal removal of asbestos-containing materials at a former automotive plant in Utica, Michigan, which contained over 60,000 linear feet and 30,000 square feet of asbestos-containing materials. During the asbestos-removal job, the defendants directed workers to tear down the asbestos-containing material while it was dry, and to place the material into plastic bags without wetting it. To facilitate removing the asbestos-containing material rapidly, defendant Clements instructed workers to "let it fly" and "let ‘er rip," and both defendants ordered workers to remove "1,000 feet" of asbestos-containing materials each day. In attempting to meet these demands, workers sometimes kicked or threw the asbestos-containing materials from the lifts, rather than carefully lowering the materials to the ground, and some of the workers broke larger pieces of dry asbestos-containing materials, in order to fit them into the bags. The manner in which the asbestos material was removed and handled violated the Clean Air Act's asbestos regulations by failing to wet the materials before removal and ensure they remain wetted, and by failing to carefully lower them to the ground without disturbing them.
Waite pleaded guilty on November 15, 2011, to knowingly violating the Clean Air Act and the federal asbestos regulations. Today, he was sentenced to twelve months plus one day in federal prison, before the Honorable Stephen Murphy, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Waite's co-defendant, Daniel Clements, who previously pleaded to one count of knowingly violating the Clean Air Act and the federal asbestos regulations on October 24, 2011, was sentenced earlier in the week on February 13, 2012, to two years' probation, including six months' home confinement, and a three-thousand dollar criminal fine.
Another man involved in the illegal asbestos removal job, Jose "Joey" Ramos, pleaded guilty to knowingly violating the Clean Air Act on January 11, 2012, for his role in the illegal asbestos removal job at the Utica plant. According to documents filed with the court, Ramos worked as an on-site foreman under the supervision of Waite on the project from December 2010 through February 2011, during the course of which he tore down asbestos-containing material while it was dry, and placed the material into plastic bags without wetting it, and also directed other workers to do the same. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 13, 2012.
Jeffrey Walworth, and his company, Bonus Environmental, LLC, pleaded guilty to criminal offenses in connection with the illegal asbestos removal job in Utica. On January 30, 2012, Walworth and Bonus Environmental each pleaded guilty to knowingly making a false statement under the Clean Air Act. Walworth and Bonus Environmental are scheduled to be sentenced on April 27, 2012.
"This case should alert business owners that they will be prosecuted for violating the laws that protect our environment," said U.S. Attorney McQuade. "We are committed to protecting our natural resources -- Michigan's greatest assets -- for future generations."
"These managers ordered their workers to remove asbestos-containing materials illegally, putting the workers at great risk," said Ashe. "Today's sentencing sends a clear message that the government will take action against those who cut corners and put illegal financial gain ahead of their obligation to obey the law.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Michigan by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell and Special Assistant United States Attorney James Cha. The case is being investigated by agents of the Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division.