Marty Watters, Investigative Reporter
Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials Sukhvir Kaur and Angeline Loftus recently confirmed that United Airlines facilities maintenance manager Sylvia Empen lied to OSHA officials, and that by doing so Empen broke the law and could face criminal charges.
And as with many federal cases, it could be the cover-up that ultimately lands people in jail.
And for her part in the illegal removal and dumping of asbestos from buildings at United's former World Headquarters (WHQ), jail might be just where Empen is headed.
Here are the facts:
Empen contracted A&E Services Inc. to remove asbestos from United's former WHQ.
A&E Services hired Mexican day labor on an ongoing basis to illegally remove and dump the asbestos.
In doing so A&E exposed United employees and the public to vast amounts of airborne asbestos fibers.
United employees then filed an official complaint with OSHA.
Ms. Empen told OSHA officials who were investigating that complaint for the record that A&E Services was removing fiberglass insulation and not asbestos.
Now thanks to whistleblowers at United, OSHA officials have learned that A&E Services was in fact removing large amounts of asbestos - not fiberglass insulation - from United's former WHQ, and that Empen lied to them during the investigation.
Thanks to Empen's lies, OSHA prematurely closed its investigation. As a result, United employees and members of the public are still being exposed to airborne asbestos fibers throughout the entire campus of United's former WHQ.
It has also been established in recent meetings with OSHA officials that during their interviews with United employees, OSHA investigators did not inform the employees of their whistleblower protection rights.
That will be very important moving forward due to the fact that United employees have since endured physical threats and retaliations at work for telling OSHA investigators and United management what they knew about the illegal asbestos removal.
Steps are now being taken to ensure that United employees begin receiving the workplace protections that they are due under the federal whistleblower protection laws.
Furthermore, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon has been informed of this situation and has even received a referral from the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate these developments due to concerns that United has violated the Non-Prosecution Agreement it entered into in a public corruption case with that office.
The question now is: How high up the United Airlines management chain does this cover-up go?
Oscar Munoz, does the buck stop with you?
Marty Watters, Investigative Reporter
United Airlines executives were so confident of the protection racket they enjoy in Chicago that they continued to break asbestos laws - right in plain view of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors.
This display of arrogance is so unbelievably brazen considering the fact that the EPA and OSHA put other people in prison for breaking these same asbestos laws.
In March of 2015, the EPA and OSHA received multiple complaints that United was illegally removing and dumping asbestos from its former World Headquarters (WHQ) in suburban Chicago.
So they begrudgingly opened a so-called " joint investigation".
What followed is a blatant display of government corruption that is hard to fathom even for Chicago.
For example: During the EPA's and OSHA's so-called "joint investigation" of illegal asbestos removal at United's former WHQ, government officials were given the exact time and location of crimes in progress at the very same facility they were supposedly investigating.
From: Marty Watters
Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2015 3:28 PM
To: Linda Rosen (EPA)
Subject: United Airlines (illegal asbestos removal & dumping)
A&E Services, Inc. is presently removing asbestos illegally by the dry removal method at United Airlines' campus located at 1200 E. Algonquin Rd. Elk Grove Village IL.
The work that I am bringing to your attention this time, is being done in machine room 1 (boiler room) of the south building. A&E is scraping the friable spray-on asbestos fireproofing material off the ceiling deck. Again, no notice was given and regulations are not being followed. And once again, the asbestos that was removed from the ceiling is being transported to another location for undisclosed dumping.
And as we discussed, the illegal dumping of asbestos is definitely with-in your purview.
The attached pictures are of the area where this illegal abatement is happening.
The work is being done in the evening.
You said you need to catch them in the act. Well go do so.
As required by whistleblower protection mandates I must insist that the attached pictures and the existence of them not be disclosed to United Airlines or anyone outside of the EPA until consent is given.
United Airlines Warned Employees: ‘Avoid Breathing Airborne Asbestos Fibers’
United Airlines Told Employees to “Avoid Breathing Airborne Asbestos Fibers”? We’d Call That #MissionImpossible
In the days to follow, United's asbestos contractor, A&E Services Inc., completed this particular illegal asbestos removal project and then moved on to another without even one visit from EPA or OSHA inspectors.
Clearly the EPA and OSHA didn't really want to catch United in the act.
Luckily someone else caught them in the act - on video.
Oops! The bad guys didn't see that coming.
And now corrupt government officials are trying their best to escape the fact that a video recording of this illegal asbestos removal project exists.
They also did not anticipate me obtaining A&E Services' invoices for all the illegal asbestos removal work it was doing for United.
Over the course of ten months, A&E submitted 68 separate illegal asbestos abatement invoices and was paid immediately upon completion of each job.
Under normal circumstances, where a company is not politically protected and the law is enforced, each and every one of those 68 separate illegal asbestos jobs would have garnered a minimum of at least one $70K "willful violation" citation from OSHA. That's a total of $4.7 million in fines just for starters.
In addition, A&E Services owner Robert Nykaza - along with numerous United managers - would be singing like canaries to stay out of prison.
And most troubling of all for the big-shots at United, this would all lead to the opening of a very big can of worms involving financial records, corporate filings and false disclosure statements.
That's when the fun would really begin!
Of course, United executives could not afford to let that happen. Not when they could just buy political protection.
Needless to say, this kind of corruption causes government officials to go completely deaf and blind to all things bad. And also explains why Nykaza has been threatening me and a United Airlines whistleblower because we are exposing them. I'll have more on Nykaza at a later date.
Even in Chicago, only big well-connected corporations like United are afforded this level of political protection.
Put simply, United Airlines enjoys above-the-law status for the moment.
The Question is: With more proof of United's criminal behavior on the way, how long will that last?
More to come....
Marty Watters, Investigative Reporter
The fact that United Airlines is claiming to have lost all records of its illegal removal and disposal of asbestos from its former World Headquarters in suburban Chicago should come as no surprise.
Did anyone really think United was going to confess to willfully exposing people to a known carcinogen? Of course not.
What did surprise me and what should trouble anyone who believes in honest government is this:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is accepting United's "lost records" defense even though I personally provided OSHA with copies of the very same records United claims are missing. Records that clearly would be considered inculpatory evidence in a criminal case against United.
Even more disturbing, OSHA area director Angeline Loftus has now signed a sworn declaration that was filed in Administrative Law Judge Dennis Phillips' court stating that these damning asbestos records do not exist. An assertion that Loftus knows is a complete falsehood.
Ooops! That's called perjury, Angie. That's a crime.
And so is covering up United's criminal behavior.
Here's an excerpt from Loftus' sworn declaration:
Loftus refuses to acknowledge the existence of the so-called "missing records" because they prove that United was illegally removing asbestos from its former WHQ
Loftus also knows that the so-called "missing records" reveal that United officials were committing accounting fraud in a quest to conceal the airlines' asbestos liabilities and related criminal behavior.
Over the course of ten months, A&E Services Inc. of Barrington, IL (Robert Nykaza) was paid over $1.1 million to illegally remove asbestos-containing insulation from United's former WHQ.
Here's how the scam worked:
A&E would submit differently worded invoices with the same invoice number for work performed. The more descriptive invoice, which deceptively referred to asbestos-containing material as "fiberglass insulation", would get buried in facilities manager Sylvia Empen's file.
Meanwhile the less descriptive line item invoice would be submitted for payment in full on the personal company credit card of one of several United managers - in many cases before the work was even completed.
Ms. Loftus was made aware of all of this before signing the sworn declaration.
There is no question that United would have liked these records to just disappear.
Unfortunately for United, they did not.
The questions to ask now are:
Why is OSHA protecting United Airlines when it should be prosecuting it for endangering employees and the public?
Does OSHA area director Angie Loftus have a summer home in South Carolina like United's friend at the New Jersey Port Authority?
I called Ms. Loftus for comment. She did not deny that she had committed perjury. She did refer me to attorneys in the Secretary of Labors office. I am still waiting to hear back from them.
Much more to come.....
United Airlines’ illegal abatement at former World Headquarters exposing employees to airborne asbestos fibers
Marty Watters, Investigative Reporter
United Airlines has been illegally removing asbestos from its former World Headquarters and training center, knowingly exposing its employees to airborne asbestos fibers.
Wow! If United can do something this deplorable to its own employees, how seriously do they take the safety of the flying public?
The laws and regulations governing the removal and disposal of asbestos are expensive, burdensome and impose substantial liabilities.
Who needs that headache? Certainly not a Chicago-based, politically-connected, large corporation like United Airlines.
United management apparently determined that it is better for their bottom line to simply ignore those pesky laws!
For example, United recently proceeded to secretly remove asbestos spray-on fire proofing material from classrooms at its training center in Elk Grove Village, IL.
Here's how they went about it:
United hired outside contractor A&E Services, Inc. to come in and scrape the asbestos-containing material from the classroom ceilings. This was done without the mandated notifications and safety measures required by law.
In addition, A&E was clandestinely bagging the asbestos material and related contaminated waste. Then the contractor illegally transported the bags filled with asbestos to a dumpster that Robert Nykaza, the owner of A&E, had secretly placed in a friend's residential driveway miles away from the United training center.
This was clearly an egregious violation of EPA regulations.
While all this was going on, United employees were unwittingly being exposed to cancer-causing airborne asbestos fibers.
But wait, it gets even better.
A&E left behind piles of the friable asbestos material on top of the duct work for the building's ventilation system..
United employees were then directed to enter the asbestos contaminated classrooms and install a suspended ceiling below the duct work where large amounts of loose asbestos fibers came to rest, concealing them from view.
End result: United classrooms are now ready for more unsuspecting employees to fill their lungs with airborne asbestos fibers.
This is just one of the many examples of how United disregards the safety and health of its employees when dealing with the serious asbestos problem it has at its former World Headquarters in suburban Chicago.
Although United was contacted multiple times, corporate officials have so far declined to respond to my request for comment.
Instead, through their attorneys at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, these same United officials have made convoluted arguments to a judge trying to impede my investigation.
Does United Airlines really believe that the federal courts should suspend the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and infringe on the freedom of the press to cover up their own wrongdoing?