New Haven Property Owner Pleads Guilty to Illegal Asbestos Removal

New Haven CT (5/23/2019) – John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Tyler C. Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in New England, today announced that ALEKS RAKAJ, 46, of Trumbull, pleaded guilty yesterday in New Haven federal court to one count of illegal asbestos removal in violation of the Clean Air Act.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Aleks Rakaj and his two cousins purchased a commercial property located at 206-220 Wallace Street in New Haven. Prior to purchasing the property, the realtor informed Rakaj and his cousins that the property contained asbestos. Shortly after the purchase was completed, Rakaj and his cousins failed to abide by laws and regulations concerning asbestos removal, resulting in exposure of those who were at the site to the negative health effects of asbestos.

On November 20, 2015, inspectors from the City of New Haven Health Department, conducting an unannounced inspection, discovered the illegal asbestos removal project at 206-220 Wallace Street. The inspection revealed multiple instances of illegal removal of asbestos-containing “air cell” pipe wrap and asbestos-containing “mag block” tank and boiler insulation. The workers failed to abide by legally required safety measures, failed to perform necessary wetting and failed to dispose of the asbestos-containing waste material at appropriate disposal sites. Inspectors also observed and photographed 100-150 standard garbage bags filled with unlabeled, unwetted asbestos-containing material.

Rakaj is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton on August 14, 2019, at which time Rakaj faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, as well as various fines.

Rekaj’s cousins, Rezart Rakaj, of Ansonia, and Kliton Rakaj, of Monroe, previously pleaded guilty to the same offense. On April 1, 2019, they were each sentenced to one year of probation, a fine of $9,500, and 50 hours of community service.

“The illegal removal of asbestos insulation and the associated removal of scrap pipe and boilers from old buildings continues to be a problem throughout the Northeast,” said EPA-CID Special Agent in Charge Amon. “Inhalation of asbestos fibers can result in lung cancer and it therefore poses significant health risks to all exposed. EPA will continue to hold accountable those who commit such offenses.”

This investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, with the assistance of the City of New Haven Health Department and U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarala V. Nagala and Elena L. Coronado.

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