Regional Director of Califco, LLC, a Property Management Company, Admits Violating the EPA’s Clean Air Act
Califco, LLC Also Pleads Guilty and Agrees to Pay a $500,000 Fine
DALLAS — Jonathan Isaac Shokrian, 28, who served as a Regional Director at Califco, LLC, with oversight of the company’s business operations in Texas, appeared in federal court in Dallas today, before Chief U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater, and pleaded guilty to an Information charging one count of failure to notify under the Clean Air Act, related to an asbestos removal project. In addition, on behalf of the corporation, Califco’s President and CEO, Elias Shokrian, who is Jonathan Shokrian’s father, pleaded guilty to the same offense. Today’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Califco is a property management company headquartered in Beverly Hills, California; it has a regional office located on North Story Road in Irving, Texas. Califco owns and operates several commercial properties in the Dallas area, including Plymouth Park Shopping Center on North Story Road in Irving and Crest Plaza Shopping Center on South Lancaster Road in Dallas.
Jonathan Shokrian faces a maximum statutory penalty of two years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. If the Court accepts the term of the government’s plea agreement with the corporation, Califco will pay a $500,000 fine and will be placed on a five-year term of probation. Sentencing is set for September 27, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater.
The Clean Air Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish standards to prevent or limit the emission of hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere. The EPA has enacted regulations under the Clean Air Act that control the removal, handling and disposal of asbestos.
According to documents filed in the case, Elias Shokrian hired another individual, “B.M.,” to be Califco’s Director of Development and supervise construction and renovation and provide oversight of asbestos abatement work. In 2008, Califco, Jonathan Shokrian and B.M. contracted with a specialized asbestos abatement contractor to remove asbestos from an old movie theater in the Crest Plaza Shopping Center. That abatement was conducted in compliance with all federal, state and local regulations and was completed in October 2008.
Approximately one month later, Jonathan Shokrian decided to conduct a renovation of the abandoned former Fazio’s department store in the Plymouth Park Shopping Center. Rather than hiring a professional asbestos abatement contractor, as Califco had done on its Crest Plaza Project, Shokrian attempted to save money by employing two day laborers to remove ceiling tile and floor tile and mastic from the Fazio’s building, even though he knew these materials contained asbestos.
While Califco provided the day laborers with masks, respirators and other tools to facilitate the removal of the asbestos-containing material, the masks and respirators were not adequate to protect the workers from the asbestos fiber. Neither Shokrian nor B.M. informed the day laborers on the site, or the Califco-employed maintenance worker, that there was asbestos in the tile and mastic being removed. Neither Shokrian nor B.M. notified any of the other commercial tenants of the Plymouth Park Shopping Center that asbestos-containing materials were being removed from the Fazio’s building.
In mid to late February 2009, day laborers, under Shokrian’s supervision, began using large amounts of gasoline to remove the remaining asbestos-containing floor tile mastic in the Fazio’s building. On February 27, 2009, after responding to a call regarding the overwhelming smell of gasoline in the area around the Plymouth Park Shopping Center, the Irving Fire Department ordered the evacuation of the shopping center and a portion of a nearby residential neighborhood because of the concentration of gasoline fumes in the Fazio’s building.
The investigation was conducted by the EPA and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Assistant U.S. Attorney Errin Martin is in charge of the prosecution.
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