Law Enforcement Partners Announce Charges in Citywide Asbestos Inspection Fraud Cases


February 1, 2018

Inspectors Accused of Failing to Conduct Proper Inspections, Falsely Claiming Inspection Sites Were Asbestos-Free

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”) Commissioner Mark G. Peters, New York City Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, and Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon today announced the arrest of 18 defendants for submitting false paperwork corresponding to fraudulent asbestos inspections occurring at approximately 40 sites across the city, including Manhattan. Nine of the defendants are charged in New York State Supreme Court indictments with Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree.[1]

“When it comes to development, safety must come first—this rule applies to our construction sitesbusinesses, and homes,” said District Attorney Vance. “Whether a building is going up, being renovated, or coming down, it’s crucial to abide by the safeguards that exist to protect New Yorkers from harm. To do otherwise is a dangerous—and sometimes criminal—practice. In this case, the defendants are charged with falsifying paperwork about citywide asbestos inspections, potentially threatening the health of all those who live and work near these properties, and highlighting the need for more oversight in this area. I thank our partners for their commitment to this issue and encourage the implementation of additional measures to ensure the integrity of future inspections such as those recommendations noted in DOI’s report. I would also like to recommend that investigators be required to append lab results to their reports—something that is not currently mandated—in order to combat fraud and decrease the risk of exposing others to serious health hazards.”

DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters said: “This criminal investigation and today’s arrests again show the widespread dangers of construction fraud. Working with our law enforcement partners and DEP, DOI exposed professional asbestos investigators who were certifying that sites were asbestos free without ever checking to see if the sites were actually safe, according to the charges. Instead, the defendants pocketed a fee, walked away, and potentially exposed multiple unsuspecting workers to serious health risks. DEP worked hand-in-hand with this team and has taken seriously the reforms DOI has recommended to strengthen and improve the integrity of asbestos inspections. We thank our partners in the Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island DA’s offices for their hard work and commitment to fighting fraud in all its forms and making New York City a safer place.”

The indictments are the result of long-term, joint investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, DOI, DEP, Queens District Attorney’s Office, and Staten Island District Attorney’s Office into asbestos inspection fraud.

In New York City, the Department of Buildings (“DOB”) requires property owners to retain a Certified Asbestos Investigator (“CAI”) to perform an inspection prior to obtaining a construction permit. CAIs, who are licensed by DEP, must prove that asbestos is not present at a property through a process of collecting bulk samples on site, submitting the samples to a laboratory, and reviewing the test results. CAIs are then required to submit an asbestos assessment report to DEP that documents the location, date, and time of the inspection.

According to the indictments and documents filed in court, between 2016 and 2017, nine CAIs, including JOHN ANUFORO, 69, PAOLA CANO, 41, DAVID CHANG, 49, DOMINICK CICCARELLI, 37, JULIO CORPORAN, 50, ANTONIO JARAMILLO, 37, LONG RIGG, 36, KENG LEE SO, 36, and ERIC TELEMAQUE, 55, falsely filed documents certifying that asbestos inspections were performed at approximately 40 locations in Manhattan and that construction would not disturb asbestos at those sites. In fact, in some cases, the CAIs who claimed to have conducted the inspections were absent from the collection sample site, and instead, were out of the city, state, and sometimes even country at the time of the inspection. In other cases, CAIs falsely certified that certain properties were free of asbestos, in spite of possessing lab reports containing positive asbestos tests and evidence to the contrary.

In order to improve industry-wide accountability and integrity, DOI also issued a detailed report documenting the vulnerabilities discovered through the investigation, as well as important recommendations for reform in this area.

Assistant D. A. Catherine McCaw is handling the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant D.A. Gloria Garcia, Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, Assistant D.A. Archana Rao, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, and Executive A.D.A. Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division. Program Coordinator Lotus Ho provided additional assistance with the investigation.

District Attorney Vance also thanked the following agencies and individuals for their assistance with the investigation: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and in particular, Steven Wnorowski and Valerie Sorensen-Clark, DOB, and in particular, James Irwin, and DEP, and in particular, Carlstien Lutchmedial.

[1] The charges contained in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.
Defendant Information:

JOHN ANUFORO, D.O.B. 6/15/1948
Elmsford, NY

Charged:

  • Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts

PAOLA CANO, D.O.B. 1/21/1977
Passaic, NJ

Charged:

  • Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 4 counts

DAVID CHANG, D.O.B. 6/8/1968
New York, NY

Charged:

  • Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

DOMINICK CICCARELLI, D.O.B. 3/27/1980
Staten Island, NY

Charged:

  • Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

JULIO CORPORAN, D.O.B. 8/17/1967
Bronx, NY

Charged:

  • Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts

ANTONIO JARAMILLO, D.O.B. 10/28/1980
Queens, NY

Charged:

  • Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 3 counts

LONG RIGG, D.O.B. 11/28/1960
Mt. Vernon, NY

Charged:
•    Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 13 counts

KENG LEE SO, D.O.B. 10/2/1981
Brooklyn, NY

Charged:

  • Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 10 counts

ERIC TELEMAQUE, D.O.B. 7/2/1962
Setauket, NY

Charged:

  • Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, 6 counts