A California man was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and 36 months of supervised release for renovating two apartment complexes in violation of federal Clean Air Act regulations intended to prevent human exposure to toxic airborne asbestos fibers.
Bobby Khalili, 46, of Los Angeles, was indicted by a grand jury sitting in the District of Nevada in September 2019, in connection with asbestos-related Clean Air Act violations at a Las Vegas apartment complex. The grand jury later returned a superseding indictment against Khalili in July 2021, in connection with new Clean Air Act asbestos violations at a second apartment complex, which Khalili committed while on pretrial release for the first set of charges. Khalili pled guilty on March 11, to failing to safely remove asbestos prior to renovation at each complex.
As part of his guilty plea, Khalili acknowledged that, on behalf of Las Vegas Apartments LLC, he oversaw renovation activities at both apartment complexes. He further admitted that he was aware of asbestos-containing materials at both buildings, and that he hired untrained individuals to tear out those materials without following asbestos work-practice standards prescribed by the Clean Air Act. Those work practice standards require that asbestos-containing materials be safely removed prior to general renovation activity taking place. Asbestos-containing materials must be kept wet at all times to prevent dust escaping, sealed in leak-proof bags, and disposed of at facilities authorized to accept asbestos waste. At both apartment buildings, untrained laborers removed asbestos-containing drywall and ceiling texture without wetting or containment, releasing asbestos fibers into the surrounding atmosphere.
Khalili also admitted to taking steps to evade law enforcement at each site. At the first apartment complex, Khalili attempted to have a dumpster filled with asbestos waste removed from the site when inspectors from the Clark County Department of Air Quality discovered asbestos-related violations. At the second complex, where he oversaw illegal renovations while on pretrial release, he instructed the contractor in charge of the renovation to lie to inspectors about who owned and oversaw the project, in an attempt to blame another person for the Clean Air Act violations he knowingly committed. According to the government’s sentencing memorandum filed with the court, Khalili also created a fake contract purportedly showing that other person’s responsibility for the renovation; in truth, that person was deceased at the time of the project.
Inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. Congress and the EPA have determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
“Today’s sentencing demonstrates that cutting corners on asbestos abatement will not result in a slap on the wrist,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “These are serious offenses with serious consequences, and we will continue to work with EPA and our partners in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to prosecute violations of the Clean Air Act’s asbestos safety regulations.”
“The defendant placed the public in danger of inhaling asbestos fibers when he failed to follow Clean Air Act regulations,” said U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada. “This sentence sends a deterrent message that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners will hold accountable individuals who violate federal environmental laws that are designed to protect workers and our communities.”
“The defendant failed to provide for the required safe removal of material containing asbestos,” said Special Agent in Charge Scot Adair of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Program in Nevada. “In addition, the defendant created an elaborate scheme in an effort to deceive law enforcement and regulators. Today’s sentencing reflects our commitment to holding people like Khalili accountable for their criminal conduct.”
Special agents of the EPA and employees of the Clark County Department of Air Quality investigated the case. Senior Trial Attorney Cassandra Barnum of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean Ripley and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Kent for the District of Nevada prosecuted the case.