The charges stem from an incident that occurred on April 17, when a worker was rescued by FDNY firefighter Dan Foley from an underground tank at the company. Prosecutors allege that company officials ordered the worker into the tank to perform maintenance without any protective equipment. The tank contained thousands of gallons of gasoline and other waste fluids from motor vehicles.
A search warrant executed at the facility a several weeks later revealed that the company was not following proper containment and disposal procedures for hazardous substances. Instead, the company allowed vehicle fluids to spill into open pits, which were connected by pipes subsurface to the underground tank. "Businesses owners who put profit before the safety of their workers and violate environmental laws will be held accountable," said Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. "My office is working with the State Department of Environmental Conservation and NYPD to ensure that such violations are prosecuted aggressively."
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: "The suspects in this case put profit before people, and came precariously close to costing one individual his life."
The indictment alleges that in April of 2004, Bronx Auto, its owner, John Chiapperino, 42, of Syosset, and its manager, Sinforiano Calix, 38, of the Bronx, instructed a worker to enter the underground tank to perform maintenance. The defendants told the worker several times over several days to get into the tank to unclog intake pipes, and on April 17, he reluctantly complied. Upon entering the underground tank, the worker was unable to breathe, passed out and suffered serious physical injury.
As a result of the incident and a subsequent investigation by the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit and investigators from DEC and NYPD, the company and its two top officers are facing charges of Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree and Endangering the Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Second Degree, both felonies, and Endangering the Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree, a misdemeanor.