On January 30, 2017, James Powers of Falls Church, Virginia, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Washington, DC, to 20 months’ incarceration, 36 months’ supervised release, and 250 hours of community service. He pleaded guilty in September 2016 to violating the Clean Air Act during a scheme to improperly remove asbestos from a historic building in the District of Columbia.
According to the statement of offense submitted as part of the guilty plea, in March 2010, Powers formed a partnership with a local real estate development firm to purchase and renovate the historic Friendship House, 619 D Street SE, into a condominium complex known as the Maples. A survey documented asbestos throughout the property, including in floor tiles, wall board, and pipe insulation.
The partnership received bids from licensed professional asbestos abatement and renovation firms in the area. However, Powers hired Larry Miller of Palmetto, Georgia, an Atlanta-based general contractor with no training, certification, or experience in asbestos abatement, to conduct the interior demolition and building renovation. The written contract with Miller specifically excluded removal of asbestos from the property. Powers told Miller that the asbestos would be abated by another contractor and did not fully inform him about the extent of asbestos in the property.
Between August 2011 and October 2011, Miller and his crew conducted interior demolition at the Maples, without the asbestos abatement required under the Clean Air Act. Powers also contracted with a waste disposal company to transport construction debris from the Maples off-site. He failed to inform the company that the debris contained asbestos, and it was not taken to a site qualified to receive asbestos waste.
DOT-OIG conducted this investigation with the Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division.