A Springfield Township businessman convicted of several crimes, including bribing former U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant, was ordered Friday to pay an $850,000 fine for asbestos contamination after his company improperly demolished an old steel mill.
Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. ordered David Sugar Sr. and four of his companies to pay the fine for what Bruzzese called “cavalier disregard of the asbestos” while demolishing the old Weirton Steel plant in Steubenville.
The companies and Sugar will also have to pay attorney fees to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, who handled the case.
Sugar was convicted of federal crimes involving the case. He was sentenced last year to 15 weekends in jail, three years of probation with house arrest and a $10,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and four counts of violating the Clean Air Act.
Bruzzese wrote in his order Sugar claimed he was unable to pay the civil penalty because of a gambling problem “which appears on a scale almost as grand as his asbestos violations.” The judge wrote he found the claim “not credible.”
“Gambling is a great way to cleanse dirty money, disappear clean money or just have fun depending upon the approach taken by the gambler,” Bruzzese wrote.
The steep fine comes from Sugar’s company’s demolition of the plant that caused asbestos particles to be dispersed throughout the area, in one case mimicking a snow storm, according to the order.
During the entire process, Bruzzese wrote, Sugar rarely attended the site “apparently trying to maintain some degree of plausible deniability for the massive violations occurring there.”
Asbestos exposure can cause extreme health hazards, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Some of the illnesses can be fatal.
Sugar purchased the plant in 2004 to sell parts for scrap. The order says David Sugar and Harry Manganaro, who Sugar hired to oversee the demolition, knew large quantities of asbestos existed in the plant.
The order says demolition workers were not required to wear protective gear during the initial phase and asbestos was scattered everywhere. After the company was cited several times by the state Environmental Protection Agency, Sugar hired Howland Company to conduct asbestos removal.
But during March 2005, disgruntled worker Kevin Chesalo told officials about asbestos violations, including massive amounts of asbestos allowed to float in the air and others dumped in pits.
On March 15, 2005 employees at an adjoining facility complained to Steubenville health officials about “clouds of white/gray material emanating from the site.
Sugar’s employees failed to meet several requirements in the process, including failing to keep the particles wet so they would become airborne, employees failing to wear protective gear and properly bagging all asbestos.
“There were serious and meaningful violations that were continuous in nature causing serious health hazards to motorists, boaters, employees of the adjoining facility, general members of the public and Sugar’s own employees,” the order says.
Sugar recently was implicated in a Mahoning County investigation into contract steering by former county sanitary engineer Robert Lyden. The report said Lyden, who was forced to resign in August from his $85,000 per year job because the human resources investigation, expedited payments to Sugar, gave access to proposed plans for yet-to-bid on projects, changed designs plans in Sugar’s favor and provided a “general sense of favoritism” for Sugar.
Sugar’s business in Springfield Township burned to the ground in January in 2012, causing thousands of dollars in damages. Officials said investigators found no sign of arson. Sugar said at the time that the company’s records were destroyed in the fire.
In 2003, Sugar was sentenced to seven months in federal prison for perjury, obstructing justice and witness tampering for his attempt to cover for bribing Traficant. Records say he ordered an employee to create false documents and mislead FBI investigators.
Sugar testified against Traficant during the former congressman’s 2002 trial in which he was sentenced to eight years in prison for racketeering and bribery.