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Deer Park property manager says she knew of work at dump site

Sharon Argenzio, a property manager at a Deer

Sharon Argenzio, a property manager at a Deer Park wetlands property, testified Tuesday that she was aware of a dirt-screening operation going on at the site in 2014. Credit: James Carbone

A property manager at a protected wetlands in Deer Park who told prosecutors Friday in a father and son’s dumping trial that she never gave permission to discard material there, testified Tuesday she was aware of a dirt-screening operation at the site.

Sharon Argenzio, who has worked at the Brook Avenue site for the past 39 years, testified Tuesday during cross-examination by Kevin Kearon, an attorney for Thomas Datre Jr., on trial, along with his father, Thomas Datre Sr., for their part in a scheme to dump contaminated debris at four sites.

The Datres are charged with criminal mischief; endangering public health, safety or the environment; and operating a solid-waste management facility without a permit. They are among six, including Ronald Cianciulli of Atlas Asphalt, who were indicted in December 2014 for their alleged roles in the dumping. Datre Sr.’s charges relate to what happened at and Islandia location, while Thomas Datre Jr.’s charges are connected to all four sites.

Argenzio told Kearon Tuesday what she said to prosecutors Friday: She never gave Datre Jr. or Cianciulli permission to dump on the property or the wetlands.

She also told the defense attorney that she thought a payment offer to her by Datre Jr. that she turned down was for the dirt-screening and not to park vehicles on the site.

Argenzio testified that the property’s owner, Joseph Masie, who died in 2011, had a “handshake” agreement with Cianciulli, allowing him to park vehicles on the property at no cost in exchange for him clearing snow and filling potholes.

In March or early April 2014, Cianciulli had asked Argenzio if he could pay her $1,500 to rent six spots for one month on the property, which had become a commercial parking facility.

Kearon Tuesday read Argenzio her earlier grand jury testimony where she spoke about the Cianciulli offer with Margaret Masie, Joseph Masie’s wife. In her grand jury testimony, Argenzio said Margaret Masie told her she was “strapped for money,” so they agreed to take the payment.

Shortly after, Argenzio testified Tuesday, she saw Datre trucks bringing in loads of unscreened materials. She told Kearon she saw Leonard King operating a payloader to screen the materials. Argenzio told Kearon that although she never saw materials dumped in the wetlands, she told King to stop the work they were doing.

Around that time, Datre Jr. attempted to give Argenzio a check for $1,500, but that she told him she leased the spaces to Cianciulli and would rather be paid by him.

“There was nothing about what Tom Datre Jr. was saying to you that was trying to suggest to you that he was paying for six trucks, correct?,” Kearon asked. Argenzio answered, “correct.”

“It was clear to you that he was trying to give you a check for the dirt screening operations that were going on, correct?,” Kearon asked. “I suppose yes,” Argenzio answered.

Argenzio ultimately accepted a $1,500 check from Cianciulli at the end of April.

Still, Argenzio testified that neither she nor Margaret Masie gave permission for the screening operation.

Kearon asked if she had called the police, the Department of Environmental Conservation, or written a cease and desist letter to Cianciulli. Argenzio said she had not.

In April or May that year, King, a machine operator for Atlas Asphalt, was sent to work at the Masie property for Datre Jr. anywhere from three to five days a week, he testified, where he screened top soil.

King testified Tuesday that in a joint decision, with Cianciulli and Datre, he dumped materials over the fence into the wetland area to build berms. He testified he did not have permission from the property owner to dump there.

Under cross-examination by Kearon, King testified that Datre Jr. told him to be careful not to dump inside the wetlands.

King said Argenzio only expressed concerns about what they were doing toward the end of the project, and that he relayed those concerns to Cianciulli and Datre Jr., who said they were going to shut the operation down and clean it up. He said he didn’t believe anything in the materials he was working with was toxic.

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