Rudy Buendia, Patrick Bowman and Joseph Cuellar all pleaded guilty to a felony count of violating the NESHAP (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) regulations regarding the carcinogenic material.
Under the contract with the federal prosecutors, Cuellar and Bowman are facing 27 months in federal prison while Buendia is facing 24 months. They will be sentenced on 3rd June by Judge Lawrence O’Neill.
All the 3 would be eligible to be released once they complete serving 85% of the sentences they receive. The 3 men will remain free, awaiting sentencing.
Rudy Buendia, Patrick Bowman and Joseph Cuellar are 50, 46 and 73 years old respectively.
The 3 men were in vital supervisory positions with company called Firm Build. They allegedly used 9 high school students to get rid of asbestos material from Automotive Training Centre located at Castle Commerce Centre from 2005 September to 2006 March in order to cut corners on one renovation project.
Benjamin Wagner, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of CA, said convictions of the trio send an obvious message.
“Exposing subcontractors and children at a work site to cancer-causing asbestos without taking any safety precautions, and that also for cutting corners and making profits, is far more than reckless – it’s criminal,” said Wagner.
Wagner said the guilty pleas by the trio will stand as a clear warning that whoever neglects environmental regulations for saving money would definitely be prosecuted and face imprisonement.
Though the federal proceedings against the 3 defendants are likely to close, they are facing state charges now in the Superior Court in Merced County.
“We don’t have the intention to dismiss the case right now,” said Larry Morse, the Merced District Attorney, when asked regarding the settlement of the federal case. Morse said the trio’s federal court convictions confirm certain important facts that we’ve accused from the very beginning of the case and our investigation.
The offices of Ralph Temple and Kirk McAllister, the lawyers represented Bowman and Buendia, did not respond to the calls seeking comment.
Douglas Foster, the lawyer represented Cuellar, told his client could’ve faced substantially more time had the case been gone for trial.
As instructed by the defendants, the students removed asbestos, a known carcinogen, without using any protective equipment and taking any safety measures, the court documents indicate. Asbestos-related cancer could take several decades to appear.