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FISCAL YEAR: 2011
1. PRINCIPAL DEFENDANT: Bobby Joe (Bob) Knapp
S.D.  Iowa  4:10-CR-00025-001
2. DEFENDANT: Russell William Coco
S.D.  Iowa  4:10-CR-00025-001
Bobby Joe Knapp, the former owner and operator of the Equitable Building in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, oversaw the renovation project, which involved converting several floors into luxury residential condominium units, and renovating other floors to attract additional commercial tenants.

Knapp admitted that he conspired with Russell Coco, the construction manager for the project, to remove materials containing asbestos from the Equitable Building without complying with the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

According to testimony presented at sentencing, while Knapp was overseeing the project, material containing asbestos was removed from the building and disposed of in an uncovered dumpster. The testimony also showed that the demolition work was performed by workers who were not provided with personal protective equipment to reduce exposure to the asbestos. Testimony also showed that the building workers, one of whom was disabled, and tenants, were exposed to large amounts of dust that resulted from the demolition. A worker testified that the workers were not instructed to wet the tile containing asbestos before and during the demolition process, which increased their exposure to dust.

February 5, 2011
The defendants were charged with violating the Clean Air Act (CAA) {42 U.S.C. 42 U.S.C. 7413(c)(1) - knowingly violates and 42 U.S.C. 7413(c)(2)(B) - fails to notify} and one count of conspiracy, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 371.
CITATION: 18 USC 2, 42 U.S.C. 7413(c)(1), 42 U.S.C. 7413(c)(2)(B)
February 15, 2011
Coco pled guilty to all counts.


Southern District of Iowa
FOR IMMEDIATE
February 15, 2011

CONSTRUCTION MANAGER OF DES MOINES BUILDING RENOVATION PLEADS GUILTY TO ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES

Improperly Removed and Disposed of Asbestos

DES MOINES, IA—On February 15, 2011, the construction manager for a renovation project at The Equitable Building in Iowa, pleaded guilty in federal court in Des Moines to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and for violating the Clean Air Act’s work practice standards related to asbestos removal, announced United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt. Russell Coco pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James E. Gritzner for the Southern District of Iowa to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and one count of failing remove all regulated asbestos containing material from The Equitable Building before commencement of the renovation project.

The Clean Air Act requires contractors who remove asbestos from public buildings to follow federally established work practice standards to ensure the safe removal of the asbestos. The required standards include providing notice to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before commencing asbestos removal, adequately wetting the asbestos during the removal and before disposal, and properly disposing of the asbestos at an EPA-approved disposal site.

According to a plea agreement filed with the court, from 2006 through February 2008, Mr. Coco acted as the construction manager for the renovation project which involved converting several floors in The Equitable Building into luxury residential condominium units, and renovating other floors to attract additional commercial tenants.

Mr. Coco admitted that he conspired with Bob Knapp, who is also charged and is scheduled to be tried on February 28, to remove asbestos containing materials from the Equitable Building without complying with the requirements of the Clean Air Act. While Mr. Coco was the construction manager for the project, asbestos containing material was removed from the building and disposed of in an uncovered dumpster.

According to the plea agreement, Coco has agreed to face up to 12 months in prison and, under the law, is subject to a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing date has been set for May 20, 2011, at 9:00am.

The investigation was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa together with the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.

March 18, 2011
Knapp pled guilty to all counts.


Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE
Friday, March 18, 2011

Owner of Renovated Des Moines, Iowa Building Pleads Guilty to Environmental Crimes

WASHINGTON – The owner of the Equitable Building in Des Moines, Iowa, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Des Moines to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and to violating the Clean Air Act’s work practice standards related to asbestos removal, the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa announced.

Bob Knapp, 61, of Des Moines, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James E. Gritzner to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and one count of failing to remove all regulated asbestos containing material from the Equitable Building before commencement of the renovation project that occurred at the building from 2005 until 2008.

The Clean Air Act requires that owners of public buildings that contain asbestos follow federally-established work practice standards to ensure the safe removal of the asbestos. The required standards include providing notice to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before commencing asbestos removal, adequately wetting the asbestos during the removal and before disposal, and properly disposing of the asbestos at an EPA-approved disposal site.

According to a plea agreement filed with the court, from 2006 through February 2008, Mr. Knapp oversaw the renovation project which involved converting several floors in the Equitable Building into luxury residential condominium units, and renovating other floors to attract additional commercial tenants.

Mr. Knapp admitted that he conspired with Russell Coco, who was also charged and pleaded guilty to the same counts on Feb. 15, 2011, to remove asbestos containing materials from the Equitable Building without complying with the requirements of the Clean Air Act. While Mr. Knapp was overseeing the project, asbestos containing material was removed from the building and disposed of in an uncovered dumpster.

According to the plea agreement, Mr. Knapp has agreed that the characteristics of his offenses put his potential prison sentence in the 33 to 41 month range , and under the law, he may be subject to a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing date has been set for June 10, 2011.

The investigation was conducted by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa together with the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

June 22, 2011
Knapp was sentenced to 41 months incarceration, 24 months probation, ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, pay a $200 crime victim special assessment fee and pay a $12,500 federal fine.


Southern District of Iowa
FOR IMMEDIATE
June 22, 2011

BOB KNAPP SENTENCED TO 41 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR CLEAN AIR ACT AND ASBESTOS REMOVAL VIOLATIONS

DES MOINES – Bobby Joe Knapp, the former owner and operator of the Equitable Building in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James E. Gritzner to 41 months in prison for conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act and the Clean Air Act’s asbestos work practice standards for his role as the during the renovation of more than 10 floors of the building between 2005 and 2008, announced United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt.

Knapp’s prison sentence will be followed by two years of supervised release and 300 hours of community service. He must also pay a $12,500 fine and $200 crime victim special assessment fee.

“This office will continue to pursue serious violations of the environmental laws that put the community at risk,” said United States Attorney Klinefeldt. “Compliance with the Clean Air Act is tremendously important to ensuring good health and the quality of life that Iowans enjoy.”

On March 18, 2011, Knapp, of West Des Moines, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and one count of failing to remove all regulated material containing asbestos from the Equitable Building before beginning the renovation project. Knapp owned the building and oversaw the renovation project, which involved converting several floors into luxury residential condominium units, and renovating other floors to attract additional commercial tenants.

“Knapp's illegal conduct put at risk the health of workers who lacked basic training and protective equipment,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, which participated in this prosecution. “The Clean Air Act work practice standards are designed to protect people’s health from real dangers, and we will hold violators fully responsible for their actions.”

“No level of exposure to asbestos is safe. Ignoring the safeguards put into place to protect workers and the public from the risk of exposure to asbestos is inexcusable,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime and should serve as a strong warning to anyone else thinking of cutting corners to save money at the expense of people’s health.”

July 13, 2011
Coco was sentenced to 36 months probation.
STATUTE:
  • Clean Air Act (CAA)
  • Title 18 U.S. Criminal Code (TITLE 18)

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