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NYS AG James & NYC Department Of Investigation Commissioner Garnett Announce Indictment Of Four Asbestos Investigators For Filing Fraudulent Inspection Reports

Defendants ‘Claimed To Be Inspecting’ Residential & Commercial Sites While They Were ‘Out Of The State And The Country, Jeopardizing’ New Yorkers’ Health & Safety

Published Thursday, September 2, 2021
by The NYS Attorney General’s Office
NYS AG James & NYC Department Of Investigation Commissioner Garnett Announce Indictment Of Four Asbestos Investigators For Filing Fraudulent Inspection Reports

(NEW YORK CITY) - New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Margaret Garnett have announced the indictment of four Certified Asbestos Investigators (CAI) for repeatedly filing false asbestos inspection reports, putting the health and safety of Workers and New York City residents at risk.

A joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the DOI found that over several years, the defendants - who were Independent Contractors certified by the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) - submitted fraudulent reports for inspections that took place on days when they were out of the state and country

The defendants - Valentino Buono (50), Jeff Ezulike (48), Russell Goss (42) and Kostas Kamberis (54) - were arraigned before Supreme Court Judge Toni Cimino in Queens County on a total of 19 counts, including Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a Class E Felony, which carries a maximum jail sentence of up to four years.

“By filing these blatantly false health and safety reports, the defendants violated the public trust, as well as the law,” Attorney General James said. “These individuals failed to do their jobs to properly inspect sites for asbestos, putting the health of New Yorkers at risk, while exploiting the state and the system.  No matter how big or small, we will continue to root out corruption at every level. I thank the DOI for its commitment to this cause.”

“Filing fraudulent asbestos reports with New York City is a crime and, as these charges show, can also threaten New Yorkers' health and safety,” DOI Commissioner Garnett said. “The reason the city requires certified asbestos inspectors to file reports with the city is to confirm that dangerous asbestos is identified and abated correctly.  The DEP reported allegations of potential fraudulent filings to DOI and we worked hand-in-hand with the State Attorney General to uncover this charged illegal conduct.  This kind of collaboration within the city and with our law enforcement partners is crucial in holding accountable those who seek to defraud New York City.”

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is hazardous to human health and is known to cause a type of cancer known as Mesothelioma.

The DOL authorizes CAIs to conduct field inspections of residential and commercial sites to determine if dangerous asbestos is present, where it is located, and how much there is.

Upon conducting their inspections, CAIs are required to file an Asbestos Assessment Report with the DEP.

The report requires the Inspector to certify that the inspection took place at the location, date, and time listed on the report, and whether asbestos was present.

Asbestos survey records must accurately reflect the site conditions at the time of investigation.

In February 2020, the OAG and the DOI began the investigation following the DEP identifying and reporting potentially fraudulent filings to the DOI.

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