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Man accused of unsafe asbestos handling in Las Vegas apartment renovations pleads guilty

Prosecutors say workers, community members put in harm's way
FILE: Judge's gavel
Posted at 8:05 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 23:05:15-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A California man pleaded guilty to improperly renovating two apartment buildings in Las Vegas, in violation of regulations laid out in the Clean Air Act. Federal prosecutors say the renovations carried out by Bobby Babak Khalili violated rules intended to prevent human exposure to asbestos, a known carcinogen.

The 46-year-old Khalili was indicted by a federal grand jury in September of 2019 for Clean Air Act violations at a Las Vegas apartment complex. He was indicted again in July of 2017 on new violations of the Clean Air Act, which prosecutors said he "admits he committed while on pretrial release for the first set of charges."

Khalili oversaw renovations at two apartment complexes in downtown Las Vegas on behalf of his company, Las Vegas Apartments, LLC, prosecutors said. The first indictment stemmed from violations at a 16-unit complex on 601 S. 11th Street, and the second indictment from violations at a 10-unit building on 211 S. 13th Street.

Prosecutors say he admitted he was aware materials torn out of both buildings contained asbestos, and that he hired untrained workers to tear out the materials without following asbestos removal regulations laid out in the Clean Air Act. Those regulations require that asbestos-containing materials be kept wet at all times to prevent dust escaping, sealed in leak-proof bags, and disposed of at authorized facilities.

"At both apartment buildings, untrained laborers removed asbestos-containing drywall and ceiling texture without wetting or containment, releasing asbestos fibers into the surrounding atmosphere," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada.

Prosecutors say Khalili admitted to also "taking steps to evade law enforcement at each site." They say he had a dumpster filled with asbestos waste removed from the first apartment complex to thwart inspectors from the Clark County Department of Air Quality, and told a contractor at the second complex to lie to inspectors about who owned and oversaw the project.

Khalili "placed workers and community members in harm’s way when he knowingly violated Clean Air Act requirements for the safe handling of asbestos, and then did it again while already under indictment,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable those who defy federal law aimed at protecting the public from adverse health effects of asbestos.”

Those adverse health effects include lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease, prosecutors said.

"Congress and the EPA have determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos," the Nevada U.S. Attorney's Office stated.

Khalili pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Clean Air Act and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 15. For each count against him, Khalili faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and up to three years of supervised release, prosecutors said.