BALTIMORE - A Catonsville man was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison Wednesday for lead paint violations in rental properties he owns throughout Baltimore City.
Cephus R. Murrell, 69, got a year and a day in prison, followed by six months of home detention as part of one year supervised release, for improper lead paint abatement at his rental properties, as well as failing to alert tenants to lead paint in their homes. Murrell owns and manages approximately 175 rental housing units throughout Baltimore.
“Cephus Murrell placed Baltimore children at risk of permanent injuries by violating federal law and ignoring repeated orders to comply with lead paint regulations,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “It is unacceptable in 2012 for pregnant women and children to be exposed to lead paint in violation of the law.”
“Reducing exposure to lead paint dust is the core of Maryland's highly successful program to prevent lead poisoning. Landlords must follow all laws that protect children from this entirely preventable disease,” said MDE Secretary Robert Summers. “This criminal sentence and the repeated findings of violations and related penalties issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment puts all property owners on notice that they have a serious responsibility to protect families from the devastating effects of lead poisoning.”
According to Murrell’s plea agreement, he owns and manages approximately 68 rental properties with 175 rental housing units in Baltimore. All of these properties were built before 1978 and are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations pertaining to the risks associated with lead-paint exposure. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) or its predecessor agencies have conducted environmental lead inspections for many years at properties owned by Murrell after discovering that children with elevated lead blood levels (“EBLs”) were living there. These inspections identified numerous lead hazards in tenants’ homes.
On July 19, 2011, Murrell pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of violating the Toxic Substances Control Act. According to his guilty plea, on September 15, 2010, Murrell had workers conduct lead-paint abatement work at one of his apartments, located on Frederick Avenue in Baltimore, while one of the apartment tenants and his children were present on site, in violation of the lead-paint abatement regulations. He also failed to have a supervisor on site while the abatement was being performed and failed to tell tenants that their apartments had high lead levels even though it had been documented by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
“Americans need accurate and truthful information in order to make informed decisions about where they will live,” said David G. McLeod, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Maryland. “Landlords and owners who fail to notify prospective tenants about the hazards of lead poisoning put those tenants at serious risk, as witnessed in this investigation by children with elevated blood lead levels. This sentence should serve notice that anyone who fails to comply with environmental regulations will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
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