In April of 2007, John F. Wood, 57, Mark Desnoyers, 52 (both of Plattsburgh, New York), and Curtis Collins, 50, of Willsboro, New York were accused of a number of illegal activities in central and upstate New York in connection with asbestos removal in public and private buildings and residences.
Desnoyers was charged with falsifying laboratory samples in order to convince clients that all asbestos had been properly removed from their premises - work that was performed under secret agreements with Wood and Collins, both owners of asbestos removal companies.
Wood's style of asbestos removal was described in an official U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document as "directing his employees to perform ‘rip and run' asbestos removals that, rather than removing all asbestos, dispersed and left substantial quantities behind, significantly contaminating numerous businesses and homes". The EPA goes on to note that some of the asbestos removed via that process was buried on a Willsboro, New York farm, mandating Superfund intervention, and funds, to clean it up.
Asbestos, widely used in building products like insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, and mastics and caulks up until about 1970, when various health agencies began to recognize its dangers, is the leading cause of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial tissues around the heart (pericardium), abdomen (peritoneum) and/or lungs (pleura). The most common form is pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in 75 percent of mesothelioma cases.
Pleural mesothelioma has a long dormancy period - up to five decades - during which symptoms are largely indistinguishable from allergies, immune system failures, cardiac conditions or respiratory diseases. Once diagnosed, however (usually via X-rays and blood tests), patients are commonly given between one year and 18 months to live, because the disease has invaded so many vital tissues. About 10 percent of sufferers, if diagnosed early and treated aggressively via surgery and dual chemotherapies, survive up to five years.
One week before the 2007 trial started, Wood (the owner of J&W Construction, Inc.) and Collins (the owner of Adirondack Asbestos) both pleaded guilty to violations of the Clean Air Act and mail fraud and agreed to testify against Desnoyers.
Wood, who started J&W Construction after being released from prison for unrelated felonies in 2005-06, was sentenced to four years in prison and $854,166 in fines by U.S. District Judge David Hurd on February 16 of this year. After his release, he will remain under supervision for another three years.
Collins was given two years and a fine of $114,900 for his part in the scheme, and also ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
Desnoyers, the former owner of Adirondack Environmental Associates, was convicted of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act, mail fraud, and false testimony to agents of the EPA.
Desnoyers has yet to be charged. On Sept. 13, after three adjournments, Desnoyers - who was supposed to have been sentenced in March - will again find himself waiting for his day in court because the judge suspended yet another trial to consider motions that might affect Desnoyer's ultimate sentence.
Legal experts suspect Desnoyers may be facing additional charges. A new trial date has not been set, but the original indictment in 2007 suggested that Desnoyers's sentencing might involve up to 25 years in jail and a fine of $1.25 million, plus restitution.