Jail time: Doctor used homeless to clear asbestos

A former doctor who hired homeless men to remove asbestos from two downtown Staunton buildings was fined $225,000 and sentenced to one year in federal prison.

In the Monday, June 16 hearing, David S. Klein, 49, of Coleman, Florida, also was placed on 36 months of supervised release.

"It's a case of greed and exploitation,'' said Nancy Healey, assistant U.S. district attorney.

Klein pleaded guilty last year to unlawful disposal of asbestos and improper removal of asbestos. In a plea agreement, Healey agreed to seek a prison term within the low end of federal sentencing guidelines, which called for Klein to spend anywhere from 12 to 18 months in jail.

Klein was fined $25,000 and a real estate partnership, owned by Klein and his wife, Peggy, was fined an additional $200,000.

From 1996 to 1998, a crew of roughly 10 homeless men headed by Josef Weiss, 50, of Harrisonburg, illegally stripped asbestos from a building and a Masonic Temple.

Bernice Hammer, who used to own a restaurant inside the Masonic Temple, said she once showed up for work at 4:30am and found one of Klein's workers coming from the basement covered in white dust.

Testimony revealed workers did not saturate the asbestos with water, as required, and illegally stored the cancer-causing insulation inside trash bags that were later left on various Staunton streets, in an unauthorized landfill, in restaurant garbage bins and other places– all in violation of federal asbestos-disposal regulations.

Klein once operated the Shenandoah Valley Pain Clinic.

Weiss, already serving five years in prison for sex charges involving a 17-year-old girl, had his sentencing in the asbestos case postponed Monday and rescheduled for 2pm Tuesday– just past the Hook's press deadline. A third man, Danny Lee Spitler, pleaded guilty in August 2001 to conspiracy to operate a renovation project involving the removal of asbestos materials. He was sentenced nine months probation, Healey said.