Mark Jakubek, who worked for the New York Port Authority as a New York-New Jersey field operations manager during the 9/11 episode that saw the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York in 2001, was convicted Friday, Dec. 4, in federal court of racketeering charges.
Jakubek, along with co-conspirator Anthony Fontanetta, now faces a mandatory prison term ranging from one year to 25 years for his part in a plan to allow an asbestos remediation firm, Specialty Service Contracting, to overcharge or fraudulently charge for asbestos remediation work performed at the Twin Towers site. According to the Manhattan District Attorney's office, this resulted in more than $60,000 illegally taken from the cleanup fund.
The Twin Towers event was the largest asbestos-hazard site in the history of the U.S., affecting 16,000 first responders and 2,700 residents of the area, some of whom have since died from the asbestos-laden toxic dust. This far outweighs the 2,600 residents of Libby, Montana, who have been sickened by the asbestos contamination of the former W.R. Grace mine.
In fact, the final legacy of 9/11 will not be apparent for decades, as asbestos-induced mesotheliomas lie dormant in the lungs of these first responders and residents, slowly invading vital tissue and organs until the tumors are so extensive and widespread that no amount of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can remove them or prevent them from recurring.
Many of those affected are hoping that passage of the James Zagroda 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (named after the first responder who ultimately died from 9/11 exposure) will extend medical care funds until 2031, the likely date at which mesothelioma and asbestos illnesses from 9/11 will peak.
This is the first trial from the five-year-old indictment, which saw ten other individuals pleading guilty. The impetus behind the investigation and subsequent indictments came from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, whose team - prior to 9/11 - had been looking into corruption in the asbestos removal industry and came up with a windfall in the form of organized crime families (like the Gambinos) and corrupt subcontractors who turned the 9/11 tragedy into a feeding frenzy, fighting for their share of the $21.4 billion pie offered by the federal government toward cleanup.
According to one source, at least $63.2 million of the $458 million made available by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, found its way to companies with mob ties.
The larceny was made possible only because the need to get the site cleaned up forced New York City to suspend its usual competitive bidding process, through the Department of Design & Construction.
Jakubek, who earned his heroes stripes by rescuing people from an elevator in one of the buildings during the 9/1l attack, remains free on bond while lawyers for the two (Jakubek and Fontanetta) plan arguments disputing the convictions.
Jakubek, who pleaded guilty in the 2003 federal bribery case by admitting he had taken about $20,000 in bribes to speed contractor payments, was fired during the investigation, while Fontanetta was merely suspended without pay. Both will return to court on Jan. 20, but no sentencing date has been established.
The 2003 indictment also charged Antonio Bueti, Arthur Mallett, Carlos Oseguera, Comprehensive Environmental of New York, Inc., Edward Looney, Gerald T.Campbell, Sr., Independent Monitoring and Analysis, Inc., James E. "Jeb" Brethauer, John Skinner, Joseph DePietto, Joseph Varsalona, Michael Adams, Michael McMahon, Peter Ellams, Robert Leary, Robert Phillips, Rocco Mongelli, and Specialty Service Contracting, Inc. Some have already pleaded guilty, some have been exonerated, and some await charges under what New York calls "enterprise corruption", which is their label for racketeering.