FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2004
ENRD (202) 514-2007|
EPA (214) 665-2200
TDD (202) 514-1888
TWO MEN SENTENCED FOR CRIMINAL VIOLATIONS RELATING TO
ILLEGAL ASBESTOS REMOVAL ACTIVITIES THROUGHOUT NEW YORK STATE
Jail Sentences Imposed are the Longest Ever for Environmental Crime
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division and Glenn T. Suddaby, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York announced today that Alex Salvagno, 39 years old of Loudon, New York, and his father, Raul Salvagno, 71, of Ormond Beach, Florida, were sentenced in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, New York to 25 years and 19 ½ years of imprisonment, respectively, following their convictions for crimes related to illegal asbestos removal activities throughout New York State. The jail sentences imposed upon the Salvagnos today are the longest terms of imprisonment ever imposed in the United States for criminal violations of Federal law designed to protect the environment.
As part of the sentencing, Alex Salvagno was further ordered to forfeit $2,033,457.70 to the United States of America, and to pay restitution to their victims in the amount of $23,039,607. Raul Salvagno was further ordered to forfeit $1,707,156.40 to the United States of America and to pay restitution to their victims in the amount of $22,875,575.46. The Salvagnos operated their asbestos abatement company under the name of AAR Contractor, Inc. (hereinafter AAR), and AAR was also ordered to forfeit $2,033,457.70 to the United States of America and to pay restitution to their victims in the amount of $22,875,567.46 upon convictions for similar crimes.
Today's sentencing follows a five-month trial, where the jury convicted Alexander Salvagno, Raul Salvagno and AAR on each count to which they were charged. The defendants were convicted of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act or "RICO;" conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act; and violations of the Clean Air Act. Additionally, Alex Salvagno was charged with three tax fraud counts, all related to a ten-year illegal asbestos removal scheme. The jury concluded that as part of the RICO charge, the defendants committed multiple acts of obstruction of justice, money laundering, mail fraud, and bid rigging.
"The trial leading to today's sentences exposed an extraordinary number of serious crimes that endangered many," said Assistant Attorney General Sansonetti. "The sentences imposed today, the longest ever for environmental offenses, demonstrates the depth of the Justice Department's commitment to seek the most serious punishment for those who knowingly place human health at substantial risk of death and disease."
"The Northern District of New York considers the investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes to be a high priority within the office," said U.S. Attorney Suddaby. "This investigation and prosecution is a tribute to that commitment, and a tribute to the outstanding results that can be achieved by the collaborative effort of the law enforcement agencies that worked together so well in this case."
Alexander and Raul Salvagno, were the owners of AAR, one of the largest asbestos abatement companies in New York State. The evidence established that, for ten years, the defendants directed their workers to engage in grossly illegal asbestos abatement. From 1990 until 1999, Alex Salvagno secretly and illegally co-owned a purportedly independent laboratory, Analytical Laboratories of Albany, Inc., (ALA). The Salvagnos used ALA to defraud victims by creating fraudulent laboratory analysis results which they used to convince clients that all asbestos had been properly removed as promised by the defendants.
Proof at trial established that illegal collusion between AAR and ALA occurred at more than 1,555 facilities throughout New York State, many of which projects also involved improper abatement. Falsification of up to 75,000 laboratory samples covered up this improper asbestos abatement including at elementary schools, churches, hospitals, State Police barracks, the New York Legislative Office Building, and other public buildings and private residences. Witnesses, including many former AAR and ALA employees, testified to "rip and run" activities directed by the defendants that included indoor "snow storms," an euphemism for the release of large amounts of visible asbestos into the air during the removal process. Evidence established that workers were knowingly sent into asbestos "hot zones" while being encouraged to work illegally without respirators, or without sufficient replacement filters for the respirators.
In imposing the lengthy terms of incarceration, the Judge made the specific finding that the Salvagnos' crimes resulted in the substantial likelihood of death and serious bodily injury to numerous individuals. Nationally renown experts testified for the United States at a sentencing hearing that most of the 100 worst exposed former AAR workers are almost certain to contract asbestosis, lung cancers and mesothelioma, an invariable deadly form of cancer. The criminal conspiracy involved as many as 500 AAR and Analytical Laboratories workers, who also are at risk. More than a dozen top AAR and Analytical supervisors have pled guilty and remain to be sentenced.
Federal agents returned to numerous facilities where AAR had performed purportedly complete asbestos abatement and where ALA had produced passing final air clearance results. The agents found high levels of asbestos remaining at numerous locations including churches banks, cafeterias, military housing, elementary schools, a children's Museum and private residences. Notification by the United States Attorney's Offices to all known victims resulted in additional places of contamination being found.
Asbestos has been determined to cause various forms of cancer and asbestosis, a lung disease that is nearly always fatal. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Senior U. S. District Court Judge Howard G. Munson presided over the trial of this case including the sentencing hearing today.
The investigation which resulted in this prosecution was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division, the New York State Office of Inspector General, and the New York State Departments of Labor and Health. The matter was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Craig A. Benedict.