Company Owner Sentenced To Jail After Trial In Near Death Of Employee

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Denise Sheehan today announced the sentencing of a Bronx company and its owner for reckless endangerment and environmental crimes following an incident in which an employee nearly died from exposure to illegally released hazardous substances.

After a three-week trial before the Honorable Michael Gross, a Bronx jury found John Chiapperino and his company, Bronx Auto Venture, guilty of one count of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Second Degree, a felony, and two counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree, a misdemeanor.

Chiapperino, the corporation, and the yard manager, Sinforiano Calix, were also convicted of one count of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree. Judge Gross sentenced defendant Chiapperino to 6 months in jail followed by four and half years probation. Defendant Bronx Auto Venture was ordered to pay a $16,000 fine. In addition, Judge Gross ordered that both defendants hire an environmental consultant to remediate the Bronx Auto Venture site and restore it to an uncontaminated original state.

The charges stemmed from an investigation by officers and investigators with the State DEC Division of Law Enforcement in Region 2 into an incident in April of 2004 when a worker was rescued from an underground tank at the Bronx Auto Venture junkyard. Chiapperino and Calix had directed the worker to enter the tank, which contained thousands of gallons of automotive petroleum waste products released during vehicle dismantling and crushing, to perform maintenance without any protective equipment. Once inside the underground tank, the worker was overcome by toxic fumes and lost consciousness. The worker was rescued by a member of the New York City Fire Department, who risked his own life to save the victim.

The case was prosecuted by Julieta Lozano and Jeffrey Locke of the Criminal Division, under the supervision of Janet Cohn, Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, and Laurie Israel, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau. Assistance on the case was provided by officers and investigators with the DEC Division of Law Enforcement in Region 2.

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