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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

Thursday, August 14, 2014

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


BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Evan Harnden, 45, from North Tonawanda, N.Y., who was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of being an accessory after the fact to a false statement under the Clean Air Act, was sentenced to one year probation by District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant was employed by JMD Environmental, Inc. (JMD) as an air sampling technician and a project monitor, and was certified by the New York State Department of Health to conduct asbestos project monitor and air sampling duties. From June 9, 2009 to January 11, 2010, co-defendants Johnson Contracting of WNY, Inc. (Johnson Contracting), Ernest Johnson, and Rai Johnson, conducted asbestos abatement activities at six buildings at the Kensington Towers Apartment Complex in Buffalo

As part of the plea, the defendant admitted that during the abatement for building A-1, Ernest Johnson, Rai Johnson, and workers employed by them violated the Clean Air Act asbestos work practice standards by: (i) failing to adequately wet Regulated Asbestos during stripping and removal operations; (ii) failing to ensure that Regulated Asbestos remained wetted until placed in leak-tight containers; (iii) causing Regulated Asbestos to be dropped down holes cut through the floors in Building A-1; and (iv) failing timely to dispose of all Regulated Asbestos stripped and removed from building A-1. During the abatement process, the defendant aided and abetted the above-described violations by conducting visual inspections and final clearance air sampling that indicated no violations of the asbestos work practice standards had occurred.

This is the third defendant to be sentenced as part of the Kensington Towers asbestos abatement project. In addition to Ernest and Rai Johnson, other defendants who have been convicted include JMD project monitors Brian Scott 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 health dangers associated with asbestos are well known," said Vernesa Jones-Allen, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in New York.  "The defendant admitted that he falsified inspection reports, which indicated to authorities that the demolition work was performed according to regulations and that asbestos contaminated materials had been removed safely. Today's sentencing should serve notice that EPA and its partner agencies remain committed to tough enforcement of our nation's environmental laws."

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; 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