Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that his office has filed a misdemeanor charge, under public health law, against a landlord who is accused of continuing to rent a residential property in violation of an order by the Erie County Department of Health after a child tenant tested positive for lead exposure. This is the second case to be prosecuted by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office since the law was enacted in 2014.
MD J. Abedin, 53, of Buffalo was arraigned this morning before Buffalo City Court Judge Barbara Johnson-Lee on one count of Willful Violation of Health Laws, Public Health Law Section 12-B (1), an unclassified misdemeanor.
The defendant is accused of failing to comply with public health law by continuing to allow occupancy of of his property, located at 72 Hammerschmidt Avenue in the City of Buffalo, knowingly in violation of an order issued by the Erie County Department of Health. It is alleged that between July 12, 2019 and November 30, 2021, the defendant rented his residential property to tenants despite an order that suspended the occupation of the property due to unsafe lead levels.
On July 3, 2019, the Erie County Health Department was notified about a child with an elevated blood lead level who resided at the Hammerschmidt Avenue home. On July 11, 2019, a public health sanitarian inspected the residence and attempted to work with the landlord to correct the lead-related violations.
Due to the property not being in full compliance with the law, a “Do Not Allow Occupancy of Dwelling Unit” notice was posted on the unoccupied residence on October 22, 2020, indicating that the property must remain vacant until re-inspected and approved for occupancy by the Erie County Department of Health.
It is alleged that on November 6, 2020, a public health sanitarian returned to the residence and reported that the “Do Not Occupy” notice had been removed from the front door. The house was found to be occupied. The sanitarian re-posted the notice on the house.
It is alleged that on December 18, 2020, a public health sanitarian returned to the residence and observed that the “Do Not Occupy” notice had been removed from the front door a second time. The house was found to be occupied. The sanitarian re-posted the notice on the house again.
Abedin is scheduled to return on Thursday, March 31, 2022 at 9:30 a.m. for further proceedings. He was released on his own recognizance as the charge is a non-qualifying offense for bail.
Lead is a toxic substance, but it was a common ingredient in household paint prior to 1978. Individuals who reside in older homes should be cautious as lead can be found in high concentrations in dust as paint deteriorates. Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning and exposure to even a small amount of lead through the consumption of chipped paint or inhalation of contaminated dust can have serious health effects, including learning disabilities, behavioral problems, seizures, coma, and even death. Currently, there is no treatment to reverse the negative health effects of lead poisoning.
In March 2019, DA Flynn announced the first case to be prosecuted by his office against a landlord who failed to comply with public health law and continued to allow tenants to occupy his residence, located on Fargo Avenue in the City of Buffalo, knowingly in violation of an order by the Department of Health after two children were found to have elevated blood lead levels. Maxim Levin, 44, of Amherst pleaded guilty, as charged, to one count of Willful Violation of Health Laws, Public Health Law Section 12-B (1) on June 4, 2019 before Buffalo City Court Judge Andrew C. LoTempio. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
“I want the residents of Erie County to know that I take this crime seriously as there are potential lifelong consequences for the children who are exposed to this toxic substance. Any landlord who fails to comply with public health law and knowingly exposes their tenants, especially innocent children, to lead will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. “I want to thank the Erie County Department of Health for the work they do every day to keep our residents safe and healthy while providing my office with the necessary information to prosecute anyone who refused to comply with these laws. I encourage anyone who has a concern about lead in their home to contact the Department of Health immediately.”
If you live in an older home or apartment, it is important to safeguard yourself and your children from lead exposure. Any Erie County resident who is concerned about lead exposure is encouraged to contact the Erie County Department of Health by calling 716-961-6800.
As are all persons accused of a crime, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
More information on lead poisioning prevention: www.erie.gov/lead