LUMBERTON, NJ (CBS) – A 46-year-old South Jersey man has been sentenced to prison time for violating the Clean Air Act.

Gene Cornell Smith, of Lumberton, bought a warehouse in the Logan section of Philadelphia and proceeded to get a quote for the cost of removing asbestos from the site.

Instead of paying to remove the asbestos properly, Smith enlisted a co-conspirator, Clarence Cole, to hire “unqualified day laborers,” who ripped out the hazardous materials illegally and did not take precautions to keep the asbestos out of the air.

Even after citizen tipped off the Asbestos Control Unit and city inspectors ordered all work to stop, Smith continued to rip out the asbestos illegally, forcing Superfund money to be used to clean up the site.

“These defendants knowingly removed asbestos-containing materials illegally, putting workers and the general public at great risk,” said David G. McLeod, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program for the Middle Atlantic States. “The real victims in this case are neighboring residents who have no way to protect themselves against this type of environmental crime. EPA continues to work with our local, state and federal partners to vigorously prosecute those who place personal gain ahead of public health.”

On Tuesday, Smith was sentenced to 42 months in prison for of conspiracy, and five counts of violating the Clean Air Act. He must also pay restitution of more than $450,000.

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