Two City of Buffalo Officials Plead Guilty to Clean Air Act Violations Related to the Kensington Towers Project
BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul announced today that William Manuszewski, 59, and Donald Grzebielucha, 59, both of Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara, to a negligent engenderment charge under the Clean Air Act. The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, a fine of $100,000, or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron J. Mango and Russell T. Ippolito, who are handling the case, stated that during the asbestos abatement project at the Kensington Towers Apartment Complex, located at 1827 Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo, both defendants were employed by the city of Buffalo as building inspectors. The asbestos abatement at Kensington Towers was conducted by Johnson Contracting of WNY Inc., and the air monitoring was conducted by JMD Environmental Inc.
On August 25, 2009, defendant Grzebielucha inspected building A-1 at Kensington Towers and, during the inspection, negligently allowed asbestos to be released in the air. Likewise, on January 15, 2010, defendant Manuszewski inspected building A-5 at Kensington Towers and, during the inspection, negligently allowed asbestos to be released in the air. During both inspections, the defendants admitted that they were negligent in relying on the previous inspections conducted by JMD employees that indicated all asbestos had been removed from the buildings.
Defendants Manuszewski and Grzebielucha are the seventh and eighth defendants to plead guilty as part of the Kensington Towers asbestos abatement project. Johnson Contracting supervisors Ernest Johnson and Rai Johnson and JMD project monitors Evan Harnden, Chris Coseglia, Henry Hawkins, and Brian Scott have also been convicted. Charges are still pending against Theodore Lehmann, a public official at the time with the New York State Department of Labor, who was responsible for certifying the project’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The remaining defendant is due in court on May 13, 2014.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The plea is 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 Acting Special Agent in Charge Vernesa Jones-Allen; 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 Christina Scaringi; and Investigators of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police, BECI, under the direction of Captain David Bennett. Additional assistance was provided by the New York State Department of Labor, Asbestos Control Bureau.
Sentencing for defendants Grzebielucha and Manuszewski is scheduled for August 18, 2014, at 12:30 p.m. and 1:00 p.m., respectively, before Judge Arcara.