New York lead and asbestos safety inspector Saverio F. Todaro is under fire after admitting in federal court that he turned in asbestos and lead reports to hundreds of buildings which he never inspected. In each case, Todaro certified that the buildings were safe from asbestos and lead, despite the fact that some of the buildings had already been demolished.
As the investigation continues to develop, regulators are wondering whether the asbestos safety inspector worked with others, perhaps taking bribes and participating in a conspiracy. So far, officials are not released the locations of the buildings involved.
William K. Rashbaum of the New York Times reports that this is only the beginning. "Todaro’s guilty plea is not the end of the story," said the Manhattan United States attorney, Preet Bharara. "This investigation is very much ongoing."
However, it appears that Mayor Michael Bloomberg finds the potential risks to be minimal. His office released a statement, downplaying the potential exposure to lead and asbestos. City regulators have found no evidence that either the fraud or risks are widespread, Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told The Times.
"We can always look for new ways to improve our process," he said. "D.E.P. is going to start increasing audits, which is the right step to ensure inspections are being completed properly."
Despite the damage control by the mayor's office, this case will have serious consequences. Asbestos exposure can cause cancer. Lead exposure can interfere with vital organs including the heart, kidneys, intestines, reproductive and nervous systems.
An internal investigation is already underway. Once the dust settles, expect billions of dollars in lawsuits to be filed against the city and the safety inspector.