Illegal Asbestos Removal Results in Jail Sentence

Late last week, a U.S. District Court judge in Utica, New York sentenced two Massachusetts men to 18 months in prison for illegal asbestos removal at a local furniture store.

According to an article in the Albany Business Review and in records submitted by the U.S. Department of Justice, John Russo and John Brewer had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act’s asbestos regulations. They had been hired in 2005 by Mario Rolla, owner of Mohawk Furniture Co. in Broadalbin, N.Y., just east of Gloversville, to remove asbestos from that property.

The article points that a Justice Department announcement about the sentencing stated that Russo and Brewer “scattered substantial amounts of asbestos” throughout the facility. This debris was later discovered by agents with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who, in turn, reported the violations.

Each of the men had received $40,000 cash from Rolla to remove asbestos from both the furniture company building and a manufacturing plant in Massachusetts, Rolla’s home state. According to an official from the Justice Department, Rolla has since paid $2.5 million to properly clean the asbestos contamination at the two sites.

Because of his age and the help he offered in prosecuting Russo, Rolla, 77, was not sent to prison. However, U.S. District Judge David Hurd fined Rolla $40,000 and sentenced him to five years of probation.

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