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New York: Worker Injury Lands Employer in Jail

The owner of a Bronx company has been sentenced to 6 months in jail for reckless endangerment and environmental crimes for his role in an incident in which an employee nearly died from exposure to illegally released toxic substances.

The charges stemmed from an April 2004 incident in which a worker was rescued from an underground tank at the Bronx Auto Venture junkyard. Owner John Chiapperino and yard manager Sinforiano Calix had directed the worker to enter the tank which contained thousands of gallons of automotive petroleum waste products released during vehicle dismantling and crushing to perform maintenance without any protective equipment.

Once inside the underground tank, the worker was overcome by toxic fumes and lost consciousness. The worker was rescued by a member of the New York City Fire Department, who risked his own life to save the victim.

After a 3-week trial, a Bronx jury found Chiapperino and his company guilty of one count of endangering public health, safety or the environment in the second degree, a felony, and two counts of endangering public health, safety or the environment in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor.

Chiapperino, Bronx Auto Venture and Calix also were convicted of one count of reckless endangerment in the second degree.

Judge Michael Gross sentenced Chiapperino to 6 months in jail followed by 4 and half years probation. Bronx Auto Venture was ordered to pay a $16,000 fine.

In addition, Gross ordered Chiapperino to hire an environmental consultant to clean up the Bronx Auto Venture site and restore it to an uncontaminated original state.

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