Contractor gets six-year prison sentence for asbestos removal

Michael P. Tremoglie Sep. 26, 2011, 3:26pm

ROCHESTER, N.Y.(Legal Newsline) - A Rochester man has been sentenced to six years in prison for violating the Clean Air Act and making false statements to a federal inspector.

Keith Gordon-Smith, 54, was also sentenced to serve three years of probation following his prison term and ordered to pay a $1,100 fine. U.S. District Court Judge Charles J. Siragusa pronounced sentence on Gordon-Smith in federal court in Rochester on Wednesday.

His sentence comes less than two weeks after a federal judge in imposed a prison sentence on a woman listed on the Environmental Protection Agency's "most wanted" list.

"Ensuring Clean Air Act work practice standards for asbestos are followed when renovating or razing a building is critical to protecting workers and the public," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This sentence shows that when employers fail to adhere to the requirements of the law to make a profit, the consequences are serious."

Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice said, "The court's sentence properly punishes Gordon-Smith and his company for the egregious crimes that placed workers and their families at risk and for his complete disregard of the environmental laws that protect human health and the environment."

Moreno believes that imprisonment and harsh sentencing is a deterrent to environmental crimes. He said, "The court's sentence should send a strong message to asbestos abatement contractors that they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. mentioned how dangerous the crimes are.

"The highly dangerous actions of Keith Gordon-Smith exposed both workers and the public to hazardous materials. Those in the asbestos removal industry are well compensated for their work, but in return are under legal and moral obligation to perform the job correctly," he said.

"When a company cuts corners - or worse - intentionally exposes workers and the public to harm - our office will act quickly and decisively."

Gordon-Smith allegedly hired a number of workers who had no training in asbestos removal and did not know they were being exposed to the asbestos while removing the copper pipes. Evidence showed that when workers questioned Gordon-Smith, he lied and told them the areas did not contain asbestos. Gordon-Smith also was alleged to have lied to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector who came to the site in September and October 2007 to investigate allegations of illegal asbestos removal.

The jury also convicted Gordon-Smith and his company, Gordon-Smith Contracting, of illegally removing and disposing of asbestos.

Another conviction was for six counts of failing to provide required notices to EPA prior to commencing asbestos abatement projects at six different sites in the Rochester area, between 2005 and June 2008.

The Clean Air Act requires that all asbestos must be removed from any structure where it may be disturbed. While asbestos is removed during abatement, it must be wetted and kept adequately wet at all times and disposed of as soon as practical at an EPA-approved site.

The woman convicted last week of environmental crimes was the owner of the country's largest asbestos abatement training school. She was convicted of multiple offenses including that she sold training certificates to thousands of illegal aliens who had not taken the mandatory training course.

She then placed these individuals in temporary employment positions as certified asbestos abatement workers in public buildings throughout Massachusetts and New England.

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