Engineers charged in connection with false asbestos reports at Mount Manresa

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (WABC) -- A pair of professional engineers are charged with filing false reports for asbestos testing done at Mount Manresa, a former Jesuit retreat center on Staten Island, after they claimed there was no asbestos found.

Police say 35-year-old Paul Santoro and his father, 74-year-old Gaspare Santoro, were arrested.

"These men violated the trust of the residents that live in the community surrounding the former Mount Manresa site by lying about the presence of asbestos, a deadly substance that has been known to cause cancer," District Attorney Dan Donovan said. "Also possibly exposed to toxins were the workers who toiled in these buildings among the dangerous asbestos without proper protective gear."

Authorities say the Santoros were hired by the Savo Brothers, a construction firm, to conduct the asbestos testings in buildings. According to prosecutors, the men took 19 samples from six buildings and claimed they found no asbestos, but city investigators found asbestos and issued 28 violations. Based on the erroneous reports, demolition was allowed to begin.

After the violations were found, the city Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order for all construction and land clearing while asbestos abatement is completed.

The retreat is being demolished amid community protest to make way for 250 townhouses.

Following an investigation, a search warrant was executed at the Santoro's office on Oct. 22. A search of the premises uncovered lab reports that showed Chrysotile, the most commonly used form of white asbestos, was present in the materials collected from two buildings.

The materials submitted for testing from the third building, Building 1A, the Bruno Building, purposefully did not include the piping insulation, which both defendants later admitted to investigators was a type of piping insulation that commonly contained asbestos.

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