Attorney General James And DOI Commissioner Garnett Announce Guilty Plea Of Department Inspector Who Accepted Bribes From Asbestos Abatement Contractor
Attorney General James and DOI Commissioner Garnett Announce Guilty Plea of Department Inspector Who Accepted Bribes from Asbestos Abatement Contractor
Defendant Accepted Cash Bribes in Exchange for Benefits to Contractor, Jeopardizing New Yorkers’ Health and Safety
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Margaret Garnett today announced the guilty plea of Samuel Nebedum, 64, an Inspector with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Nebedum engaged in a long-term bribery relationship with an asbestos abatement contractor, wherein he accepted cash bribes, meals, and fish in exchange for providing various benefits to the contractor, including intentionally overlooking violations at the contractor’s worksites and the referral of additional abatement business.
Nebedum pleaded guilty to charges of Bribe Receiving in the Second Degree, a Class C felony; Bribe Receiving in the Third Degree, a Class D felony; Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a Class E felony; and two counts of Official Misconduct, an A misdemeanor. Nebedum was sentenced to a conditional discharge, and must pay $15,000, $5,000 of which must be paid by July 15, 2019. The Court will determine the remaining pay schedule, to be paid to the New York City DEP.
"By accepting bribes, Samuel Nebedum violated public trust and put the health and safety of New Yorkers at risk,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “New Yorkers deserve to be able to trust the integrity of their officials. My office will continue to hold accountable those who disregard the interests of the public in favor of financial gain.”
“Today’s guilty plea sends the message that a City inspector, entrusted with safeguarding the public, will be held accountable and prosecuted when he trades in his integrity for bribes,” said DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett. “This defendant is now a convicted felon who no longer works for the City. DOI will continue to work with its partners, in particular the state Attorney General, to expose and prosecute corruption in this City.”
The joint Attorney General and DOI investigation revealed that this arrangement has allegedly gone on for over ten years and put the health and safety of workers and New York City residents at risk.
According to the felony complaint filed in December 2018 at the Queens County Supreme Court, Nebedum had been an Inspector with the DEP since May 29, 1990, and during the course of his employment allegedly accepted over $10,000.00 in bribes from a contractor during that time. With his guilty plea, Nebedum admits to an agreement or understanding that his actions or decisions were influenced upon the receipt of the bribes. As alleged in the complaint, Nebedum used his position as an Inspector to give advance notice prior to official DEP inspections taking place at this contractor’s jobsites, ignored asbestos removal violations at this contractor’s jobsites, and referred additional business to the contractor, which stemmed from his official jobsite visits, all in violation of DEP policy.
The DEP is the primary City agency responsible for the regulation of the asbestos abatement industry. Proper abatement procedures involve requiring all workers at a jobsite to wear Personal Protective Equipment, which includes a protective mask and hazmat suit; wetting down all asbestos containing material (“ACM”) when removed, so as to prevent asbestos from becoming airborne; the setting up of a proper decontamination unit with proper air-monitoring equipment, to ensure the work area does not have air containing ACM escaping; and the dumping of materials containing ACM at designated disposal facilities. As set forth in the felony complaint, the Attorney General and DOI alleged that Nebedum ignored these regulations during the course of this bribery scheme, putting the health of many workers and City residents at risk for inhaling and ingesting asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is hazardous to human health and is known to cause a type of cancer known as mesothelioma.
Attorney General James and DOI Commissioner Garnett would like to thank the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for their assistance during this investigation. Attorney General James and DOI Commissioner Garnett also would also like to thank the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation for their support.
The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Russell Satin, and Special Counsel Brian P. Weinberg, of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado.
The Attorney General’s investigation was handled by Investigators Anna Ospanova, Brian Metz, and Melissa Kaplan under the supervision of Supervising Inspector Sylvia Rivera and Deputy Chief John MacManus. Audit work was provided by former Forensic Auditor Alex Ozechowski. The forensic audit section is led by Chief Auditor Edward J. Keegan and Deputy Chief Sandy Bizzarro. Additional investigative support was provided by Legal Support Analyst Katharine Litka.
The investigation was conducted for DOI by Confidential Investigators Alaina Infantino and Devin Riley, Deputy Inspector General Michael Antolini, and Inspector General Gregory Cho. The case was supervised by Associate Commissioner Jay Flaherty.