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Post date: February 25 2004

Asbestos Contractors Plead Guilty To Fraud

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that the operators of two Buffalo area businesses have pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme in which documents were falsified regarding the removal of asbestos, a known and dangerous carcinogen, from buildings slated for demolition.

Spitzer made the announcement with City Councilman Brian Davis and Bishop William Henderson at the historic Michigan Street Baptist Church. Councilman Davis had referred the matter to Spitzer citing his concerns for neighborhood health and safety, and the potential impact of demolition on an adjacent historic structure.

The companies, Topor Contracting, based in Buffalo, is a demolition and asbestos abatement business owned and managed by Tom Toporczyk, 32, of Buffalo; and PAYCO, based in Akron, is an air monitoring contractor owned and operated by Patricia A. Young, 37, of Akron.

Criminal felony complaints filed against Toporczyk, William Denton, 30, of West Seneca, and Tina Lopez, 34, of Buffalo, state that in April 2002, fabricated and fraudulent documents were submitted to the City of Buffalo claiming the completion of pre-demolition surveys and asbestos abasement work at 74 Crystal Avenue, Buffalo. In addition, Lopez forged Young's signature on air-monitoring records when in fact PAYCO had not conducted any such monitoring. The complaint against Young alleges that in June 2001 PAYCO submitted phoney certifications in connection with a building located at 16 Lewis Street, Buffalo, claiming the completion of pre-demolition surveys that were in fact never conducted.

Appearing today before Judge Michael D'Amico in Erie County Court, Toporczyk and Denton, a manager at Topor, each pled guilty to Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class "E" felony. Lopez, a Topor employee, pled guilty to Forgery in the Third Degree, a class "A" misdemeanor. Young also pled guilty before Supreme Court Judge Christopher Burns to Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree, a class "A" misdemeanor.

In a related civil matter, Toporczyk, Denton and Young have been permanently banned from participating in the asbestos abatement business in New York State.

Earlier this week, Spitzer filed civil suits in Erie County Supreme Court against Toporczyk, Topor Contracting Inc., and Young for repeatedly submitting fraudulent pre-demolition asbestos surveys in attempts to secure demolition permits in Buffalo, Tonowanda, and Rochester. Young was also alleged in that action to have fabricated air monitoring records for a series of asbestos abatement jobs in Western New York.

The suits further allege that the defendants also provided false documents regarding the existence of air monitoring for asbestos in order to secure approval and payment from the City of Buffalo for a number of buildings many of which were believed to contain asbestos.

Pre-demolition surveys for the existence of asbestos are required to assure that hazardous material is identified, removed, and disposed of as specified under state law. State statutes also require air monitoring during abatement to ensure that workers, the public and the environment are protected from potentially dangerous asbestos fibers.

Toporczyk, Denton, and Young entered a settlement in satisfaction of the civil actions in which they will be permanently barred from the asbestos abatement business, and Toporczyk will pay a $25,000 civil penalty.

The cases were handled by Assistant Attorneys General Russell Ippolito of the Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, and James Morrissey of the Buffalo Regional Office under the supervision of Ken Schoetz, Assistant Attorney General In-Charge of the Buffalo Regional Office and Viola Abbitt, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Criminal Prosecution Bureau. Assisting in the actions were Paul Scherf of the Attorney General's Investigation Bureau, Walter Cain of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Special Agent Timothy Crino of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Darin Muggleston of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.