Woman Pleads Guilty to Concealing Mississippi Queen Asbestos

According to washingtontimes.com, A San Francisco woman faces up to two years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after pleading guilty to a federal charge that she didn’t tell Louisiana regulators about asbestos in the Mississippi Queen steamboat before it was demolished. Chiu’s company, Cheery way Inc., faces up to five years’ probation and large fines.

The 376-foot Mississippi Queen began plying the Mississippi River system in 1976 before it was taken out of service in 2007. Delta Queen Steamboat Co. once owned the Mississippi Queen, but lost it to bankruptcy in 2001. The ship was later bought by another company, who sought to renovate the steamboat. When the renovation plans fell through, the ship was sold for scrap to Chiu for $800,000 in October 2010. After an anonymous tip about possible asbestos-related work on the steamboat at Argosy Boat Co. in Pierre Part was submitted to the Department of Environmental Quality, a probe into the steamboat was started in May 2011.

Cherry Way had a company conduct tests and found asbestos in the ship’s walls and ceiling, according to the court documents, but didn’t tell regulators or Argosy Boat Co. Prosecutors said the contractor, who was not named directly but DEQ records show was Argosy Boat, had no prior asbestos abatement experience and was not a certified asbestos abatement contractor. Workers started demolition without being required to take safety precautions.

Dave Reidt, owner of the now shuttered Argosy Boat, said the incident was his company’s first job and cost him everything he had. He claimed prosecutors cleared him of criminal wrongdoing. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans would not directly comment on Reidt’s claim but noted that only Chiu and Cheery Way were named in the bill of information Dec. 4 bringing charges over the incident.

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