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Press Release

Buffalo Man Sentenced for Clean Air Act Violation Related to the Kensington Towers Project

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul announced today that Ernest Johnson, 42, of Buffalo, N.Y., who was convicted of violating the Clean Air Act Asbestos Work Practice Standards, was sentenced to two years of probation by U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango and Russell T. Ippolito, Jr., who handled the case, stated that the defendant was the president of Johnson Contracting of WNY, Inc., an asbestos abatement company that was hired to conduct asbestos abatement activities at six buildings at the Kensington Towers Apartment Complex, located at 1827 Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo. In a pre-abatement asbestos survey, each building at Kensington Towers was found to contain 63,000 square feet of regulated asbestos containing material. The asbestos abatement project lasted from June 2009 to January 2010.

During the asbestos abatement of building A-1, the defendant, and employees working under his direction, violated the Clean Air Act asbestos work practice standards by failing to adequately wet Regulated Asbestos during stripping and removal operations and by failing to ensure that Regulated Asbestos remained wetted until placed in leak-tight containers. The defendant also caused Regulated Asbestos to be dropped down holes cut through the floors in Building A-1.

This is the fourth defendant to be sentenced as part of the Kensington Towers asbestos abatement project. In addition to Rai Johnson, other defendants who have plead guilty include JMD project monitors Brian Scott, Evan Harnden and Chris Coseglia and current and former public officials responsible for certifying the project’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including Donald Grzebielucha, William Manuszewski, and Theodore Lehmann.  The remaining defendants will be sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara.

The conviction was the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent-In-Charge, William V. Lometti; Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-In-Charge Brian P. Boetig; Special Agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-In-Charge Rene Febles; and Investigators of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police, BECI, under the direction of Captain Frank Lauricella. Additional assistance was provided by the New York State Department of Labor, Asbestos Control Bureau.
Updated November 19, 2014