Condo Owner Gets Prison Term for Failing to Notify Employees of Asbestos Risk

The owner and manager of a California condominium complex were sentenced for conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act’s asbestos work practice standards during the renovation of a 204-unit apartment building in Winnetka, Calif., in 2006 – work that caused asbestos to be released into the complex and the surrounding community.

Charles Yi, of Santa Clarita, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson to four years in prison. John Bostick, also of Santa Clarita, was sentenced to six months home confinement, 150 hours of community service, and three years probation. Yi was convicted after a two-week trial in March 2011 when a jury found him guilty of five felony offenses, including conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act. Bostick pleaded guilty in February 2011 to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act.

The jury also convicted Yi of failing to notify the Environmental Protection Agency and the South Coast Air Quality Management District about a renovation containing asbestos, failing to provide a properly trained person during a renovation containing asbestos, failing to properly remove asbestos and failing to properly dispose of asbestos wastes.

Yi was the owner of the now-defunct Millennium-Pacific Icon Group and Bostick was its vice-president. Millennium-Pacific owned the Forest Glen apartment complex in Winnetka that was being converted into condominiums in 2006. Knowing that asbestos was present in the ceilings of apartments in the Forest Glen complex, Yi, Bostick, and the project manager, Joseph Yoon, hired workers who were not trained or certified to conduct asbestos abatements. The workers scraped the ceilings of the apartments without knowing about the asbestos and without wearing any protective gear. The illegal scraping resulted in the repeated release of asbestos-containing material throughout the apartment complex and the surrounding area because Santa Ana winds were blowing during the time of the illegal work. After the illegal asbestos abatement was shut down by an inspector from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the asbestos was cleaned up at a cost of approximately $1.2 million. Yoon pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in June 2010 and is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

The federal Clean Air Act requires those who own or supervise the renovation of buildings that contain asbestos to adhere to certain established work practice standards. These standards were created to ensure the safe removal and disposal of the asbestos and the protection of workers.

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