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15-count indictment alleges individual directed and hid illegal asbestos removal (6/22)

June 22, 2009
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A federal grand jury in the Western District of New York, has returned an indictment charging Keith Gordon-Smith, owner of an asbestos removal company, with numerous violations of the Clean Air Act, submitting false statements and obstruction of justice, the Justice Department announced.

The charges stem from allegations that Gordon-Smith directed and caused illegal asbestos removal at several sites in the Rochester, N.Y., area, and hid the illegal asbestos removal from federal agencies.

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 15-count indictment alleges that between June 2006 and August 2008, Gordon-Smith had employees of his asbestos abatement company, Gordon-Smith Contracting Inc., remove asbestos from schools and a hospital in the Rochester area, without ensuring that the asbestos was kept adequately wet or properly disposed. The indictment also alleges 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 (OSHA), and providing a false notification to the EPA.

If convicted, Gordon-Smith could be punished by up to five years in prison as well as a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

Once Gordon-Smith is arraigned, and in accordance with the Crimes Victims Rights Act, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York will be providing a public notice in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle to notify potential victims who may have been directly and proximately harmed as a result of the alleged crimes. The notice will include information directing potential victims to a website as well as a contact phone number established by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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.

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