LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – R. Alexander Acosta, Uni…

LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ricky Langlois, Special Agent in Charge, Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, Miami Field Office, and Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne, announced that defendant, Tarragon Management, Inc. (TMI), was convicted and sentenced today in a criminal case in connection with violations of the Clean Air Act asbestos regulations resulting from the 2003 development of the Pine Crest Village Apartment Complex in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

TMI pled guilty and was sentenced before United States District Court Judge James I. Cohn, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for knowingly violating the Clean Air Act Work Practice Standards for asbestos during the demolition and renovation of the Pine Crest Village Apartment Complex. TMI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tarragon Corporation, managed the real estate portfolio of Tarragon Corporation, including the supervision of properties undergoing demolition and renovation activities.

The Federal Clean Air Act regulates the emission of hazardous air pollutants, including asbestos. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants include work practice standards that are binding on all persons engaged in demolition and renovation work who own, lease, operate, control, or supervise demolition or renovation operations at facilities with a requisite amount of asbestos present

Judge Cohn sentenced TMI to five (5) years’ probation and ordered it to pay a $500,000 criminal fine. In addition, TMI must pay $500,000 in community service to the Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund. Finally, TMI was ordered to develop, implement, and enforce a nation-wide Comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) for all of its operations, to assure compliance with applicable laws and regulations for the identification, generation, handling, and disposal of all hazardous substances and wastes. A court-required independent consultant will oversee the development, implementation, and enforcement of the ECP during the probation and will regularly audit the process and report to the Court and the government annually.

According to court records, from about April 18, 2003 through on or about April 28, 2003

at the Pine Crest Village Apartment Complex, Building A, in Fort Lauderdale, TMI and its employees, Richard Schaffer and Robert Violino, and contractor Benco Development, Inc., engaged in demolition and renovation activities that disturbed approximately 6,000 square feet of regulated asbestos containing materials, without complying with the mandated work standards, in spite of four Environmental Assessments and an Asbestos Operations and Maintenance Program Plan identifying the presence of asbestos at the facility and numerous warnings by the Broward County Department of Planning and Environmental Protection Asbestos Abatement Coordinator.

In related proceedings, Benco Development, Inc., the construction manager for the project, pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act asbestos regulations and was sentenced before United States District Court Judge K. Michael Moore, on May 25, 2006, in Miami, Florida. Benco was placed on probation for two years and was ordered to pay a $25,000 criminal fine. Benco also paid community service in the amount of $25,000 to the Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund. In addition, Benco’s president must complete a 40 hour training course regarding the identification and handling of hazardous substances and wastes, including asbestos.

Also on May 25, 2006, before United States District Court Judge Patricia A. Seitz, in Miami, TMI’s Managing Director, Richard Schaffer pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act asbestos regulations. Schaffer’s sentencing is set for August 17, 2006, at 8:30am, before Judge Seitz.

Finally, TMI’s Project Manager, Robert Violino, pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act asbestos regulations and was sentenced before United States District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan, on June 16, 2006, in Miami. Violino was placed on probation for two years with six months to be served home detention, and was ordered to pay a $25,000 criminal fine. In addition, Violino must complete a 40 hour training course regarding the identification and handling of hazardous substances and wastes, including asbestos.

United States Attorney Acosta stated, “Members of the building and demolition industry must be cognizant of the environmental impact their actions have on our environment and public health. When they fail to meet their obligations, they will face prosecution for their actions. This Office will enforce environmental regulations aimed at protecting our community and our welfare.”

EPA SAC Rick Langlois said, “This case demonstrates the commitment of both the EPA and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, not only to protect the health of our environment and welfare of the community, but also to seek criminal sanctions when individuals and companies fail to comply with safety regulations and knowingly violate the laws of the United States.”

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U. S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer.

A copy of all press releases may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on .

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