Federal prosecutors are moving forward with the case against Elbert Building Co., despite the death of the Elyria company’s owner, Lorne Elbert Jr., in April.
Both Elbert and his company entered guilty pleas to charges they allowed a contractor to remove asbestos from the former Builder’s Square building in Lorain without proper supervision. The pleas came just days before Elbert died at age 74.
Neither Elbert nor the company was sentenced, but according to documents filed in U.S. District Court, prosecutors still want the company to be penalized.
Prosecutors had anticipated that Elbert would have received probation in the case.
The company is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22.
Mike Tobin, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, said that despite Elbert’s death, the corporation he ran continues to exist, and whoever takes it over will be responsible for providing the government information about the company’s assets and liabilities. Federal probation officers will use that information to recommend a fine, Tobin said.
Elbert’s attorney David Leneghan, who also represents the company, said it surprised him that the case is still going.
“I find it very strange they want to continue to pursue this,” he said.
Tobin said as long as the company continues to exist it would be liable for paying any fines, but Leneghan said he isn’t certain if the company will continue. A call to
Elbert’s son, Joe Elbert, who reportedly took over the company his father started, wasn’t returned Tuesday.
Even if the company continues, Leneghan said he can’t imagine the penalties will be that severe.
“I anticipate a minimal fine at best,” he said.
The federal case centered on the former Builder’s Square building on Fairless Avenue that has since been torn down. A daycare center now stands on the property.
According to the indictment, a June 2007 inspection determined there was asbestos in the building and Elbert’s company obtained an estimate to have a licensed abatement company remove the material at a cost of $4,900.
But instead of using a licensed company, as Elbert had told the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency he would do, Elbert paid an unlicensed person $35 to remove the asbestos and put it in drums, according to prosecutors.
An EPA inspector who visited the site about a week after the work was done reported finding pieces of asbestos on the floor of the building’s boiler room and in the parking lot.
Elbert said after he entered his guilty plea that he did so to prevent a protracted legal fight.
Under the terms of Elbert’s will, his estate, valued at nearly $1.1 million, according to documents filed in Lorain County Probate Court, will pass to his widow, Lorene Elbert.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.