Two brothers, Paul and Steven Mancuso, are accused of falsifying air quality reports regarding their asbestos removal projects in and around the town of Utica, New York. If convicted, Steven Mancuso could face up to five years in state prison and a $250,000 fine. Paul Mancuso, if convicted of operating an illegal disposal business, could be sentenced to fifty-five years in state prison and fines totaling $2.5 million.
Reports issued by the New York bureau of the U.S. Attorney's office show that the brothers, along with associates Frank Meola and Mark Yozzo, doctored the paperwork required by the Environmental Protection Agency for companies conducting asbestos abatement and cleanup projects.
Meola and Yozzo are scheduled to testify in court this week regarding the laboratory samples of air in the area that they took from the sites of demolished businesses, schools, health clinics and homes. Federal prosecutors allege that the men forged the tests in order to hide the inferior precautions taken at the locations where the Mancuso brothers' company carried out the asbestos disposal.
Craig Benedict, the federal attorney handling the prosecution, stated that Yozzo would tell the judge about how Paul Mancuso requested his help in administering air-sampling tasks tied to the company's asbestos removal projects. Benedict also said that Yozzo learned how to take the air samples as he watched Meola carry out the jobs. The problem, according to Benedict, is that Meola was not using the proper procedures for the tests, thus Yozzo never learned how to complete the tests the right way.
Prosecutors have also stated that the brothers and their alleged co-conspirators used various methods to manipulate air-testing documents required by the EPA. One particular instance shows how data written on an EPA form was covered in white correction fluid and written over by another party. Another case shows a document with a piece of paper glued over it that showed different data than the original tests. On several occasions, Yozzo's signature would appear on a document that recorded data at a test site where he was not present.
In opening statements on the case, Benedict and other prosecutors maintain that the brothers conducted asbestos remediation jobs across the area that were both illegal and unsafe. Benedict said that the case was about how the defendants continued "lying, cheating and deceiving" on a regular basis, both to government officials and to their clients with regard to asbestos levels present at the sites they worked. He also stated that Steven Mancuso, an attorney by trade, allegedly wrote falsified legal papers that hid his brother's role in the company. Paul Mancuso had been convicted in 2003 of violating the federal Clean Air Act and was prohibited from conducting asbestos removal operations.
Frank Policelli, the defense attorney for Steven Mancuso, stated his client's innocence and that no one could be certain of who was responsible for the forged documents. During opening statements, he mentioned that the jury should judge the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses and understand that "all the exhibits in the world" would not necessarily point to Steven Mancuso's guilt.
Another aspect of the trial involves Meola's campaign for Utica City Controller. Meola, a Democrat, is running against incumbent Republican Michael Cerminaro and independent Rocco Garro. Meola has not yet decided to stop his campaign and the city's Democratic Party Chairman has not released a statement. Garro called for Meola to drop out of the race due to the scandal. Voters go to the polls on November 3.