Guilty plea in toxic dumping
Thomas Datre Jr.

Photo provided by the District Attorney’s office

Guilty plea in toxic dumping

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
4/7/2016


ISLIP TOWN—Last week, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota announced that a guilty plea had been submitted by Thomas Datre Jr. – the principal defendant on trial for the illegal dumping of tens of thousands of contaminated construction debris at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood during 2013 and 2014.

Datre Jr. – a 42-year-old St. James resident – had been on trial since Feb. 23 along with his father, Datre Sr., and four family-operated companies charged with dumping thousands of tons of contaminated construction debris at four locations in western Suffolk County. He pleaded guilty to four felony charges of endangering the public health, safety and environment in the third degree. He also pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit. The sentences on both convictions will be served simultaneously. Meanwhile, all charges against his father were dropped.

Spota stated that Datre Jr. would receive a prison sentence of up to three years in an upstate correctional facility. According to the terms of the plea, he is responsible for the restoration of Roberto Clemente to an active playground, soccer field, and recreational facility for Brentwood residents. In addition, Datre Jr. is financially and otherwise responsible for the cleanup and remediation of the environmentally fragile wetlands area on the Islip-Babylon town border in Deer Park and a lot at the corner of Sage Street and Islip Avenue in Central Islip.

Dangerous toxins, including dieldrin, asbestos and other contaminants classified as “acutely hazardous” or “hazardous” were detected in the dumped debris. Spota indicated that the dumping investigation – which began in April 2014 – uncovered a scheme “based in greed that left Suffolk County with an environmental catastrophe.”

The cleanup of the environmental damage was addressed in the terms of Datre Jr.’s plea. 

“Before the defendant is sentenced, he will clean up at his expense the properties he dumped debris on,” said Spota. “Mr. Datre will report on his progress with the cleanup to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the court and the district attorney’s office.”

 In addition to Datre Jr.’s guilty plea, the family-run business, 5 Brothers Farming Corp., pleaded guilty to four counts of endangering the environment in the third degree – one felony plea for each of the four sites where New York City building rubble was dumped in Suffolk.

 Datre Jr.’s co-defendant, Christopher Grabe, 38, of Islandia Recycling, also pleaded guilty to two felony charges of endangering the environment and two misdemeanor charges of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit. Spota said that for Grabe’s role in the dumping of debris at Clemente Town Park in Brentwood and at the Route 111 site in Central Islip, he will be sentenced to up to six months in jail and five years probation.

Justice Fernando Camacho said from the bench that Grabe’s sentence would also be deferred to enable both he and Datre Jr. to participate in the designated cleanup efforts.

After their pleas, Camacho said that both men must show “good faith” in their work to repair and remediate the damage caused by the dumping. He said that each of their respective sentences would commence only if they comply with the outlined cleanup stipulations.

Grabe also pleaded guilty to a tax fraud felony filed by the district attorney’s Tax Crimes Unit in March of last year.  

“From 2011 through 2013, [he] failed to report about $885,000 of income to New York State, resulting in evasion of approximately $57,000 in income taxes,” said Spota. “The defendant is now required to pay the unpaid taxes.”

 In a separate investigation and indictment, Datre Sr. and Clara Datre, representing Daytree at Cortland Square Inc., acknowledge before Justice Fernando Camacho the firm’s failure to pay prevailing wages to its workers performing tree and stump removal for the Town of Islip. For the plea to the misdemeanor charge of failure to pay the prevailing wage, 13 workers employed by Daytree at Cortland Square Inc. will be paid by the company approximately $90,000 in wages that they did not receive while working on the town contract.

Meanwhile, no date has yet been set by the judge for the rest of those convicted – including former Islip Parks Commissioner Joseph Montuori, his former parks secretary, Brett A. Robinson, and Ronald Cianculli of Atlas Asphalt.

Both Montuori and Robinson are charged with 12 crimes, including: conspiracy; two counts of official misconduct; three charges of reckless release of an acutely hazardous substance into the environment (for the dumping of material containing Cobalt on the soccer field and recharge basin, and dieldrin, a banned pesticide on the soccer field); two counts of endangering in the third degree for the reckless release of more than 2,000 pounds of a hazardous substance at Clemente; endangering in the fourth degree for the reckless release of a hazardous substance (for asbestos dumped onto the soccer field and the recharge basin); and one count of operating an illegal solid waste management facility that causes the release of more than 70 cubic yards of solid waste into the environment (specifically onto the soccer field and recharge basin).

Ninth District Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez, who adamantly spoke out against both the crimes and their perpetrators, commented on the verdict.

“I am glad to hear our justice system prevailed in regards to Roberto Clemente Park,” said Martinez. “Though the defendants admitted responsibility to the egregious act of dumping toxic material at the park, it doesn’t address the fact that the only viable park in my district isn’t ready for the third consecutive summer.

“The main priority remains to complete the cleaning and remediation of the park and to have a grand re-opening as soon as possible,” she added.

Meanwhile, Town of Islip officials declined to comment on the matter pending the forthcoming litigation.

“There is another criminal trial coming up, and until that criminal trial is concluded, it would be inappropriate for us to comment,” said a town spokesperson.