Inspector pleads guilty in Kensington Towers case

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A former New York State Department of Labor inspector has pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act. This is the final conviction relation to the four-year investigation and prosecution involving the asbestos abatement project at Kensington Towers. The U.S. Attorney’s office says 67-year-old Theodore Lehmann, of Tonawanda, could face up to one year in prison, a fine of $100,000 or both.

“Today’s development brings to a close the prosecution of those responsible for endangering the public during the asbestos abatement project at the Kensington Towers,” said U.S. Attorney William Hochul in a prepared statement. “This prosecution revealed wrongdoing by those who contracted to perform the work correctly, both abatement and air monitoring employees.“

The US Attorney’s Office says Johnson Contracting was awarded a subcontract to conduct asbestos abatement at the complex, in June 2009. In January 2010, an anonymous caller told the Department of Environmental Conservation that practice standards were not being followed. This prompted their investigation.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, asbestos material could have been released into neighboring communities if demolition of the towers occurred as scheduled. Nine people have been convicted in the case.

Johnson Contracting supervisors Ernest Johnson and Rai Johnson were convicted of violating Clean Air Act asbestos work practice standards; JMD project monitor and supervisor Evan Harnden was convicted of aiding and abetting a violation of the Clean Air Act asbestos work practice standards; JMD project monitors Chris Coseglia, Henry Hawkins and Brian Scott were convicted of being an accessory after the fact to a false statement under the Clean Air Act; and City of Buffalo inspectors Donald Grzebielucha and William Manuszewski were convicted of a negligent endangerment charge under the Clean Air Act.

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