Attorney General Cuomo Announces Sentencing Of Three Men For Roles In Scheme To Intentionally Install Faulty Septic Tanks

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (November 9, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that three men have been sentenced after pleading guilty to charges stemming from a scheme to intentionally install faulty septic systems in a Town of Granby housing development.

Gary A. Royce, Jr., 42, of Fulton, a manufactured home lot developer, and his employee, Leslie A. Baker, 30, of Mexico, pleaded guilty in April in Oswego County Court to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (class E felony). Former Town of Granby code enforcement officer Harold Babcock, 71, of Fulton, pleaded guilty to Issuing a False Certificate (class E felony) in August.

Royce was sentenced to 30 days in the Oswego County Jail, 5 years probation, 120 hours of community service, $18,375 restitution, and full stay away orders of protection for his victims. He has already replaced 11 septic systems and 2 wells as required by his plea agreement. Baker was sentenced to 5 years probation, $11,676 in restitution, and 100 hours of community service. Babcock received a conditional discharge and was ordered to pay $1,676 in restitution.

“With total disregard for the environmental impact and long term ramifications for his customers, this builder consistently cut corners and ignored the legal requirements of his trade,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “The sloppy and hazardous work has now been remedied at the builder’s expense and the homeowners he victimized finally have the properly functioning homes they were promised.”

The criminal charges alleged that, between September 2003 and April 2008, Royce and Baker intentionally installed defective septic systems in the late phases of the Country Estates subdivision, a manufactured home development in the Town of Granby. According to court records, the septic system lacked necessary components or contained fewer components than required by law. With help from Babcock and engineer Daniel L. Flanders (against whom criminal charges are still pending), Royce and Baker also installed these septic systems without obtaining required engineer-designed plans and inspections.

In fulfillment of Royce’s plea agreement, homeowners who purchased homes between 2003 and 2008 received new septic systems installed by Royce, or money to cover the expense of installation by an independent contractor. In total, 11 septic systems and 2 wells were excavated and replaced. To ensure replacement systems were correctly installed, the process was monitored at all by times by the Attorney General’s Office, the Oswego County Health Department and the Town of Granby.

Royce included installation of a properly designed septic system in the purchase price of a mobile home. However, the septic systems Royce and Baker actually installed lacked necessary components or contained fewer components than required by law.

In a separate ongoing civil case, the Attorney General’s Office alleges that in earlier phases of the Country Estates subdivision, Royce also failed to install sewage disposal systems according to plans approved by the Oswego County Health Department, and installed systems that fail to conform to public health laws, including the State Sanitary Code. Additionally, the civil suit asserts that Royce performed land development work, such as installing concrete pads and electrical service, in a shoddy manner.

In the civil case, the Attorney General is seeking, among other things, a court order requiring Royce to post a performance bond, and that he pay to remediate the faulty installation of additional septic systems. The Attorney General is also seeking to bar Royce from performing future land development work in New York State.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas DeMartino of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Richard Ernst.
The investigation was conducted by Sr. Investigator David Bruce and Investigator Thomas Wolf.

The charges against Flanders are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

 

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