Attorney General Cuomo Announces Guilty Pleas From Two Men Who Intentionally Installed Faulty Septic Tanks

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (April 28, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that two men have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scheme to intentionally install faulty septic systems.

Gary A. Royce, Jr., 42, of Fulton, a manufactured home lot developer, and his employee, Leslie A. Baker, 30, of Mexico, pleaded guilty in Oswego County Court to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (class E felony). They both face a maximum penalty of 1 1/3-to-4 years in jail when sentenced June 22.

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 Town of Granby manufactured home development. According to court records, the septic system lacked necessary components or contained fewer components than required by law. Criminal charges are still pending against Harold Babcock, a former Town of Granby code enforcement officer, and Daniel L. Flanders, an engineer. With help from Flanders and Babcock, Royce and Baker also installed these septic systems without obtaining required engineer-designed plans and inspections.

As part of the plea agreement, homeowners who purchased homes between 2003 and 2008 will receive new septic systems to be installed by Royce, or money to cover the expense of installation by an independent contractor. To ensure replacement systems are correctly installed, the process will be monitored at all by times by the Attorney General’s Office, the Oswego County Health Department and the Town of Granby. Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office has developed strict procedures that Royce and his employees must adhere to while completing the project.

“Instead of doing the job properly the first time, this builder must now go back and fix his sloppy and hazardous work at his own expense,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “They not only installed faulty tanks that posed a significant threat to public health and the environment, but victimized homeowners who paid hard-earned money for brand new properties and trusted the contractor to make sure that their homes would function properly.”

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, Gary 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 Law, 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 and unworkmanlike 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 and Babcock are merely accusations and those defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.