Gene Cornell Smith, 46, of Lumberton, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 42 months in prison for violating the Clean Air Act. Smith bought a warehouse, in the Logan section of Philadelphia, and got a quote for the cost of removing asbestos from the site. Instead of paying to remove or stabilize the asbestos-containing material, Smith enlisted his co-conspirator, Clarence Cole, to hire unqualified day laborers, who ripped out the asbestos illegally, without taking the precautions, required by federal regulations, to keep asbestos out of the air. Smith and Cole did not provide any safety equipment to the workers. When a conscientious citizen tipped off the Asbestos Control Unit of the City Public Health Department's Air Management Services, city inspectors ordered all work to stop. Instead of closing up the site, however, and hiring a qualified contractor to remediate the building as he was ordered to do, Smith continued to dispose of asbestos-containing material illegally, and to allow emission of asbestos to the outside air. Eventually, Superfund money had to be used to clean the contamination caused by the illegal work Smith and Cole had ordered.
"These defendants knowingly removed asbestos-containing materials illegally, putting workers and the general public at great risk," said David G. McLeod, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program for the Middle Atlantic States. "The real victims in this case are neighboring residents who have no way to protect themselves against this type of environmental crime. EPA continues to work with our local, state and federal partners to vigorously prosecute those who place personal gain ahead of public health."
A representative from Philadelphia Air Management Services stated, "The convictions of Gene Cornell Smith and Clarence Cole arose from their decision, made knowingly, to abate and remove dangerous asbestos material in clear violation of the law. This matter was first investigated and reported to the EPA by the City of Philadelphia Air Management Services. We are grateful that with the assistance of the Philadelphia U.S. Attorney's Office and EPA Region 3, this matter has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion."
Smith was convicted of conspiracy, and five counts of violating the Clean Air Act after a jury trial, in January 2013. Cole pled guilty in January 2013, and was sentenced to 24 months in prison in June.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Cynthia M. Rufe also ordered the defendants to serve three years of supervised release, and to pay restitution of $451,936.80
The case was investigated by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Environmental Protection Agency, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Abrams and Special Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Moshang III.
An Indictment or Information is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, EASTERN DISTRICTof PENNSYLVANIA
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