Binghamton, New York - Two individuals pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to violate federal and New York State regulations intended to prevent human exposure to asbestos.
According to court documents, between 2015 and 2016, Kristofer Landell, 36, and Madeline Alonge, 27, both permitted, and in some cases directed, abatement workers to use illegal methods to remove asbestos from a former IBM site in Kingston, now known as TechCity. The facility in question contained over 400,000 square feet of regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM), as well as an additional 6,000 linear feet of RACM pipe wrap. Alonge, then a supervisor for the asbestos abatement company operating on the TechCity site, oversaw multiple crews of abatement workers who were illegally removing asbestos. Landell held a New York license to work as a person responsible for ensuring compliance with federal and state asbestos regulations and had been hired as the “project monitor” on site. Landell was also responsible for conducting air monitoring to ensure that asbestos fibers were not released into the surrounding environment.
According to court documents, Alonge and Landell failed to fulfill their responsibilities. As a result, New York State issued numerous notices of violation (NOVs). Notwithstanding those NOVs, A2 owner Stephanie Laskin, as well as abatement supervisors Alonge and Gunay Yakup, instructed workers to remove asbestos illegally. For example, they removed RACM dry, produced visible emissions of asbestos, and directed work to proceed in areas that were not properly sealed off with “critical barriers,” which are designed to prevent asbestos emissions outside a work area. Their co‑conspirator Landell not only permitted such practices to continue, but also failed to conduct requisite air monitoring, falsified compliance records, and failed to properly conduct “final air clearances,” as required by New York regulations. Final air clearances are intended to ensure areas are safe to be reinhabited following abatement activities. All of the defendants charged as co-conspirators had received training in proper asbestos removal and regulatory requirements.
“The pleas entered today are especially important because they address not only criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, but also the criminal circumvention of the third party project and air monitor systems designed to ensure compliance,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “I would like to take this opportunity to thank New York State inspectors for their support of this prosecution.”
“Today’s plea agreements again reflect the serious consequences of the failure of these defendants to comply with EPA’s regulations that protect public health from asbestos, a dangerous human carcinogen,” said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Amon of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division. “These criminal acts endanger workers and the community and cost the taxpayers substantial monies in cleanup costs. EPA commends the Justice Department prosecutors for vigorously prosecuting this environmental crime case.”
Because of the defendants’ and others’ actions, asbestos was released into the surrounding environment, as admitted by co-defendant Roger Osterhoudt. Although not charged with conspiracy, Osterhoudt took responsibility last month for his criminal negligence in re-hiring A2 Environmental Services after having been made aware of numerous NOVs and other evidence of illegal practices. According to Osterhoudt’s plea, his negligence caused a release of asbestos into the environment that placed others at an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury. Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. The EPA has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Landell and Alonge entered guilty pleas to violating the federal conspiracy statute before Hon. Judge McAvoy in Binghamton, New York. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Oct. 6, and Oct. 19, respectively. Both individuals face up to five years in prison, three years supervised release, a $250,000 criminal fine, and may be held liable for providing restitution to any victims.
These charges are related to conspiracy pleas previously entered by Laskin, who owned A2 Environmental Solutions, and Yakup, who — like Alonge — worked for Laskin as an abatement supervisor.
Special agents of the EPA and individuals from the New York Departments of Labor and Environmental Conservation investigated the case.
Todd W. Gleason and Gary N. Donner of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case with the assistance of paralegal Chloe Harris.