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Thursday, October 22, 2009

New York Man Indicted for Clean Air Act Violations

18-Count Indictment Alleges Individuals Directed and Hid Illegal Asbestos Removal

WASHINGTON--A federal grand jury in the Western District of New York, has returned a superseding indictment charging David Vega and Francis Rowe with committing violations of the Clean Air Act while they were project managers for Gordon-Smith Contracting, Inc., an asbestos removal company owned by Keith Gordon-Smith, the Justice Department announced.

The indictment supersedes an earlier indictment returned by the grand jury in June 2009, against Keith Gordon-Smith, charging him with numerous violations of the Clean Air Act, submitting false statements and obstruction of justice. The superseding indictment now also charges Gordon-Smith’s company with the same criminal violations. In addition, the superseding indictment charges Francis Rowe with submitting a false statement in an effort to obtain a court-appointed attorney.

The charges stem from allegations that Gordon-Smith, Gordon-Smith Contracting, Vega and Rowe directed and caused workers to illegally remove and dispose of asbestos during the demolition of the Genesee Hospital complex in Rochester, N.Y.

The Clean Air Act requires contractors who remove asbestos from public buildings to follow federally-established work practice standards to ensure the safe removal of the asbestos. The required standards include providing notice to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before commencing asbestos removal, adequately wetting the asbestos during the removal and before disposal, and properly disposing of the asbestos at an EPA-approved disposal site.

The 18-count indictment alleges that at different time periods between June 2007 and April 2009, Gordon-Smith, Vega and Rowe had Gordon-Smith Contracting employees remove asbestos from the Genesee Hospital complex without ensuring that the asbestos was kept adequately wet or properly disposed. The indictment also alleges that Gordon-Smith caused his company’s employees to perform illegal asbestos removal at other sites, including schools, and that Gordon-Smith took several steps to hide the illegal asbestos removal from federal agencies. These included failing to provide prior notification to EPA before the asbestos removal projects were performed at the schools and hospital, giving false statements to an inspector from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and providing a false notification to the EPA.

If convicted, Gordon-Smith, Vega and Rowe could each be punished by up to five years in prison as well as a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for each count. Gordon-Smith Contracting could be subject to a criminal fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the gain obtained by the company or suffered by any victims as a result of the crimes, for each count.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York has established a page on its Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nyw to provide information for potential victims who may have been harmed as a result of the alleged crimes.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section. The case was investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014