Federal prosecutors recently unsealed an indictment against four Florida men for using improper methods to take out and dispose of asbestos-containing materials from a series of condominium remodeling projects. The charges include conspiracy, falsifying government documents and violating the federal Clean Air Act. Each count of the indictment carries a potential for a $250,000 fine and up to five years in federal prison.
Two of the four men, John Loder, 43, and Stephen J. Spencer, 48, were partners in a firm called Sun Vista Development Group, which handled the daily tasks and paperwork involved in buying, remodeling and reselling numerous large condominium complexes in central and south Florida. Guy Gannaway, 53, owned his own construction company, Gannaway Builders, which took on many of the remodeling and renovation jobs for the Sun Vista partners.
Mr. Gannaway and one of his supervisors, Keith McConnell, 54, handled renovations for two Sun Vista properties, Barefoot Beach Resort in Indian Shores and Shore Club Pasadena in Pasadena. The indictment states that Mr. Gannaway and Mr. McConnell knew that apartments in these complexes contained ceiling insulation that had a high concentration of asbestos, but did not carry out an assessment on the asbestos level in the buildings before they began work on the renovation projects.
Gannaway Builders began working on the Barefoot Beach Resort property in November 2004, but halted work a few weeks later. From December 2004 to April 2005, Sun Vista and Gannaway Builders considered bringing in licensed asbestos removal crews to handle the cleanup process, but turned down bids for the work due to the costs involved. Rather than use the specialty crews to remove the dangerous substance, Gannaway Builders chose a different approach.
During the spring and summer of 2005, workers with Gannaway Builders installed layers of drywall in the ceilings to cover the asbestos rather than remove it. Also, the indictment states that Gannaway Builders did not provide workers with proper protective equipment to prevent them from inhaling loose asbestos fibers. Loose fibers became a problem with the “popcorn”-style insulation when workers removed it from some units affected by a leaky roof.
Other counts of the indictment address the false statements that Gannaway workers made to inspectors from the Pinellas County Air Quality Division. Both Gannaway Builders and Sun Vista Development officials allegedly lied to county environmental investigators regarding their response to an earlier citation for violating air quality regulations issued in November 2005.
The other joint project between Sun Vista Development and Gannaway Builders, Shore Park Pasadena, also has issues with asbestos-containing material. Workers with Gannaway, at the direction of the Sun Vista partners, started renovation on the property in May 2005 without removing the ceiling tiles, most of which were laced with asbestos. The work continued until November 2006, but management did not employ proper precautions against asbestos exposure to workers or contamination to the surrounding environment, according to the indictment.
All four men face charges of conspiracy to violate the federal Clean Air Act and making false statements to environmental inspector. The Sun Vista Development partners are also charged with one count of making false statements and five counts of violating the Clean Air Act. Mr. Gannaway and Mr. McConnell are each charged with eight counts of violating the Clean Air Act. All four men have pleaded not guilty on all charges.
Sources: Tampa Bay Online, PR Newswire