AUBURN CAR DEALER AND CONTRACTORS INDICTED FOR CONSPIRACY, FALSE STATEMENT AND VIOLATIONS OF CLEAN AIR ACT
Men Conspired to Remove Asbestos Without Proper Permits and Safeguards
WOLFGANG “TITO” ROEMPKE, owner of Auburn Valley Cars, was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act, making false statements in connection with the demolition of a building he owns in Auburn, Washington, and illegally removing and disposing of regulated asbestos containing material. The building, formerly known as the “Old Town and Country Diner” on Auburn Way North, was demolished in late August and early September 2008. The indictment unsealed today alleges that ROEMKE and two contractors, MICHAEL NEUREITER of A&D Company Northwest, Inc., and JAMES “BRUCE” THOREEN, of JT Environmental, Inc., conspired to hide the fact that the building contained regulated asbestos containing material and failed to notify the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency of the contamination, thereby preventing the Agency from monitoring the demolition and disposal of the asbestos containing material.
According to the indictment unsealed today, in June 2008, ROEMPKE obtained a “Hazardous Building Materials Survey” indicating the building contained substantial quantities of regulated asbestos containing materials. The applicable regulations require all asbestos containing material to be removed from buildings to be demolished or renovated before any wrecking or dismantling begins that would break up the material or preclude access to the material for subsequent disposal. A licensed asbestos abatement contractor provided ROEMPKE an estimate of $22,669 to properly dispose of the asbestos. A few days later a second abatement contractor provided a bid of $20,786. Following receipt of those bids, MICHAEL NEUREITER walked through the building and contacted JAMES “BRUCE” THOREEN and asked him to provide a second asbestos survey. NEUREITER told THOREEN to conduct the survey in such a way as to not identify any regulated asbestos containing material. THOREEN allegedly collected samples from parts of the building that were unlikely to contain asbestos. NEUREITER subsequently contracted with ROEMPKE to conduct the interior demolition, salvage, disposal and removal of all materials from the building. The agreed contract price was $8,000.
ROEMPKE accepted the deal and notified the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency of the planned demolition, falsely stating that no asbestos would be removed as part of the demolition. ROEMPKE arranged for the rental of heavy equipment to demolish the building, and between August 26 and 27, more than 106 tons of demolition debris was hauled from the site, without following the regulations governing applicable to removing and disposing of asbestos containing material. When an inspector with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency visited the site on August 28, ROEMPKE provided him with the faulty asbestos survey and made no mention of the original survey. At a second meeting in September 2008, ROEMPKE and his representative again offered the faulty survey to inspectors.
All three men are charged in the Conspiracy count. ROEMPKE and NEUREITER are both charged with Failure to Remove Regulated Asbestos and Failure to Properly Dispose of Regulated Asbestos – both are violations of the federal Clean Air Act. ROEMPKE is also charged with Making a False Statement, based on his failure to acknowledge the presence of asbestos containing material in paperwork he submitted to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
The charged conspiracy is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Clean Air Act violations for failing to properly remove and dispose of the asbestos containing material are each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The alleged false statement violation under the Clean Water Act is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
NEUREITER made his initial appearance today in U.S. District Court in Seattle. The other defendants will appear at a future date.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), with assistance from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jim Oesterle.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.