Landlord in lead-based paint case pleads guilty to making false statements

On April 5, Long Dang Bui pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon to making false statements to EPA and HUD agents during their investigation of allegations that the defendant failed to provide a number of his tenants with notification of lead based paint hazards as required by law.

This matter was the first such case prosecuted in the Northwest and stemmed from a year-long investigation conducted by EPA and HUD, with assistance from the Portland Police Bureau. The maximum penalty for this offense is not more than 5 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a two to three year term of supervised release and a $100 special fee assessment.

Pursuant to the plea, the defendant agreed that he was an owner, lessor and manager of multiple residential properties in the City of Portland, Oregon. As the lessor of these properties, which were built before 1978, he had a legally imposed obligation to provide his tenants, prior to their becoming obligated under any lease agreement, with a federally approved warning concerning the health risks associated with exposure to lead-based paint as well as notice of known lead-based paint hazards that may be present. The defendant, during an investigation by EPA, on or about July 17, 2003, in the District of Oregon, knowingly and willfully made false statements to EPA investigators by falsely representing that the lead disclosure forms he previously submitted to EPA Region 10, regarding four of his tenants, were accurate and that the dates shown on the forms were the actual dates that both he and his tenants signed the forms and that the names on the forms were the actual people who signed the forms; whereas in truth and in fact, the defendant well knew that the forms were inaccurate and that the signature dates on the forms were false and had been backdated.

Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains high levels of lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips, and dust can be dangerous if not managed properly and can cause a number of health problems. Children are especially at risk because their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

"Lead poisoning is a significant health risk for young children, particularly for low-income and minority children living in older housing," said Socorro Rodriguez, EPA's Director of its Oregon Operations Office. "This prosecution highlights the obligation of landlords and agents to inform tenants of the presence of lead-based paint and the risks associated with exposure."

Sentencing in this matter is set for June 27, 2005.

For more information on environmental and health risks associated with lead exposure, as well as federal rules, regulations and policies, visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/OWCM.NSF/webpage/LEAD?OpenDocument.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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