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Three Illinois men indicted for dumping asbestos in poor neighborhood


A prominent Illinois real estate developer is one of three men accused of a scheme that led to the illegal disposal of more than 125 bags of asbestos-containing material in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood.


Michael J. Pinski, a Kankakee County developer, was indicted by an Urbana, Ill., grand jury for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act for the illegal removal, disposal and handling of asbestos. Also indicted were Duane L. O’Malley, owner of the company hired to remove the asbestos, and James A. Mikrut, who supervised the abatement.


According to the indictment, Pinski hired O'Malley to remove asbestos-laced insulation from pipes in a five-story building owned by Pinski's company, Dearborn Management, Inc. O’Malley, who lacked proper training in asbestos removal, agreed to perform the work for an amount that was substantially less than a trained asbestos contractor would have charged.


Prosecutors say O’Malley then arranged for Mikrut to hire five untrained workers who removed the asbestos insulation and placed it in 127 unlabeled plastic garbage bags. According to the indictment, Mikrut and another individual drove to an open field in Hopkins Park, an impoverished, mostly black town in Kankakee County, and emptied the bags, contaminating the soil.


Pinski, O'Malley and Mikrut have each been charged with five counts of violating provisions of the Clean Air Act that require owners of commercial buildings follow federal guidelines to ensure the safe removal and disposal of asbestos.


Pinski and Mikrut have each been charged with one count of lying to investigators. According to the indictment, the two men told an Illinois EPA investigator on separate occasions that they knew nothing about asbestos removal at the site.


Asbestos is a known carcinogen that was widely used to make building and construction materials until the 1970s. Exposure to crumbled, or friable, asbestos can cause mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining the lungs and abdomen, and other respiratory illnesses. The EPA considers any amount of exposure to asbestos fibers to be a heath hazard.


If convicted, Pinski, O'Malley and Mikrut could face five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Pinski and Mikrut could face an additional five-year sentence and a fine of up to $250,000 for making false statements to investigators.