On October 13, a federal judge countered a challenge by Paul Mancuso’s attorney that Patrick Fraccola, a former agent with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), knowingly provided false statements in order to get a search warrant for the Mancuso’s asbestos businesses.
If the argument had been sustained by the judge, most of the evidence gleaned from those search warrants would have been thrown out, leaving prosecutors very little with which to proceed. In fact, some legal experts suspect the case would have been abandoned.
The story started with Paul Mancuso’s conviction, in 2003, for illegal asbestos removal and disposal. In 2004, he was convicted of insurance fraud, and the court abjured him from engaging in any further asbestos abatement work with anyone who had violated laws in regard to asbestos removal.
This included brother Steven, a lawyer, who was found guilty of helping his family engage in illegal asbestos work by preparing false documents that made it seem the work was being performed by legitimate companies licensed in asbestos removal.
Ronald, another brother, pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiracy to violate the Federal Superfund Act, primarily by dumping removed asbestos alongside public roads.
Lester Mancuso, the father of the three, was charged, along with Paul, with conspiracy to defraud, violation of the Superfund Act, and mail fraud.
According to court records, Paul (with the help of Steven, and aided by Lester) set up asbestos removal companies in the names of various relatives and associates to conceal his continued asbestos work.
On Sept. 25 of this year, Paul and Steven were due to appear in Syracuse District Court to issue a plea. Instead, their lawyer sent a letter to District Court Judge Frederick Scullin Jr., saying the two (and their father, also indicted) would not be pleading guilty, and cited the issue with Fraccola.
That issue was resolved on Oct.13, when the judge ruled that there was no evidence that Fraccola had gotten the search warrants under false pretenses. The judge also noted that Fraccola’s resignation from the EPA, reportedly because of a conflict of interest stemming from his of off-duty work with the Frankfort Village Police Department, was beyond the scope of the hearing.
The trial will begin next week in U.S. District Court as originally planned. The prosecutors include Assistant United States Attorney Craig A. Benedict, and Todd W. Gleason, a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section.
If convicted, Paul faces a maximum of 55 years in jail and a fine up to $2,750,000. Lester could serve 23 years and pay $1,250,000. Steven faces a possible five years in jail and a fine of $250,000. Ronald, who has pleaded guilty, faces a potential of three years and $250,000.
Asbestos, when not properly removed, can disperse into the air as ultrafine particles which, inhaled or ingested, cause lesions which can lead to mesothelioma. While asbestosis (a disease caused by asbestos exposure) requires years of exposure to contract, mesothelioma can be caused by inhaling a single particle.
Occurring most commonly as pleural mesothelioma (though also as peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma), the disease affects the mesothelial lining around the lungs and evolves so slowly that, by the time it is diagnosed, it has commonly invaded a great deal of vital tissue. Doctors generally provide a poor prognosis; between a year and 18 months to live, though early detection and aggressive therapies like surgery and chemotherapy can extend lifetimes up to five years.
Sources: Unica Observer Dispatch, WKTV