A state Supreme Court justice told two men they “betrayed” the people in Suffolk communities where they dumped tens of thousands of tons of contaminated construction debris as he sentenced them both to jail Thursday morning.
Judge Fernando Camacho said that “dumping poison on our community can never be a slap on the wrist and a fine” when he sentenced Thomas Datre Jr., labeled the “mastermind” behind the scheme by prosecutors, to one year in jail for each of the four class-E felonies he pleaded guilty to last March. The sentences will run concurrently. He was sentenced to conditional discharges for four misdemeanor counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.
Datre Jr. went on trial last year for dumping debris at the four sites: Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood; a six-home subdivision in Islandia built for returning veterans in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; a private, one-acre plot on Islip Avenue in Central Islip; and a sensitive wetlands area in Deer Park.
Christopher Grabe, of Islandia Recycling, who had pleaded guilty to two felonies for his role in dumping at the park and Central Islip sites, received a split sentence of six months, with 30 days to be spent in jail and the remaining five months spent doing community service. Grabe also will be on probation for five years.
One of Datre’s corporations, 5 Brothers Farming Corp., which also pleaded guilty to four felonies in the dumping, was sentenced to a fine of $600,000.
Before the sentences were imposed, several of the victims of the dumping scheme read statements to the court.
“We are fearful, afraid, and emotionally distressed on a daily basis,” said Sgt. Eric Petry, a homeowner at Veterans Way in Islandia where he lives with his two young children and pregnant wife. “I have to live the rest of my life knowing that me, my wife, my children might become sick because of someone’s greed.”
Glen Gruder, the attorney for the Long Island Home Builders Care Corp., the charitable arm of the Long Island Builders Institute that was responsible for building the Islandia development, said more than $600,000 had been spent on clean up and legal costs. The expense, he said, put an end to the nonprofit’s veterans home project. “No other veterans will be receiving homes,” he said.
April Masie, the Deer Park property owner, said she and her 88-year-old mother have “suffered greatly from the stress” of the ordeal, which has cost upward of $100,000 to clean up.
Assistant District Attorney Michelle Pitman said Datre Jr. had shown “a lack of accountability” and said he had not acted in good faith in trying to help clean up the sites within the 13-month time frame, as he promised at the time of his guilty plea.
“They just didn’t want to pay the costs,” Pitman said, adding that Datre Jr. made excuses to explain the delays.
Alia Richards, representing Grabe, and Kevin Kearon, attorney for Datre Jr., said both men did everything they could to help with the cleanup efforts at all the sites.
Last March, in a separate financial case involving prevailing wage violations, charges against Datre Jr., his mother Clara Datre and sister Gia Gatien were dropped when Daytree at Courtland Square Inc., owned by Thomas Datre Sr. and Clara Datre, had entered a guilty plea to a charge of willful failure to pay prevailing wages. Camacho ordered them Thursday to pay a total restitution amount of $72,000.
Datre Jr., before receiving his sentence, told the judge: “I apologize to anybody that was affected by this.” Grabe also apologized.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota began an investigation in April 2014 into the scheme after the state Department of Environmental Conservation had been called with complaints over illegal dumping at Clemente Park.
Spota had called the operation a “greed-filled dumping scheme.” The fill found dumped at the sites contained chunks of glass, concrete, cement and other contaminated materials and tests showed varying levels of harmful toxins.
Prosecutors Thursday said debris was cleaned up from the Deer Park site but still remained at the Central Islip lot. Clemente Park, while cleaned of the dumped fill by Islip Town in summer 2015, remains locked but is set to open by this summer.
“I wish that while sitting here today, a year and a month after this conviction, this plea, I wish that the park was open and I wish the kids were playing in it,” Camacho said. “They’re not.”
Others in dumping scheme
- Two ex-Islip Town officials, former parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his former secretary, Brett A. Robinson, were sentenced in October to conditional discharges. Montuori Jr. pleaded guilty in August to one felony count of endangering the health, safety or environment and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy, while Robinson pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a violation, in which his actions created a hazardous condition at the Brentwood park. Montuori Jr.’s plea was reduced to a misdemeanor at the time of sentencing in exchange for his cooperation with Islip Town.
- Ronald Cianciulli, was found guilty in June 2016 by Judge Fernando Camacho after a bench trial for helping Datre Jr. dump debris at a business near his Atlas Asphalt in Deer Park, known as the Masie property, which abuts and includes parts of the wetlands. Sentencing in Cianciulli’s case is set for June 1.