- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

A Maryland man yesterday pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and making false statements to federal officials in a scheme to conceal his failure to notify tenants of the presence and hazards associated with lead-based paint.
David D. Nuyen, 65, of Silver Spring, Md. admitted to the charges in a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt in what the Justice Department described as the first-ever criminal prosecution in the United States related to lead-hazard warnings required under federal law.
The department said Nuyen will serve two years in prison under the terms of the agreement, if approved by the court. As part of the agreement, Nuyen will provide all tenants with new notices about actual and potential lead hazards, and he will retain an independent contractor to assess lead-paint hazards and develop a lead-abatement plan for his properties.
Nuyen faces a maximum $250,000 fine for each of the six felony counts to which he pleaded guilty. Sentencing is set for Nov. 19.
He owned and managed 15 low-income rental properties in the District and Maryland. According to a statement signed by Nuyen, he had notice of actual lead-paint hazards in one of his apartment buildings from D.C. lead inspectors, who informed him that they found lead in the building.
But Nuyen failed to provide his tenants with notice about actual and potential lead hazards before they signed leases, the Justice Department said.
"The dangers of lead poisoning have been known for years, but too many children continue to be exposed to lead hazards," said John Cruden, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the department's environment division. "We will vigorously enforce the federal lead-disclosure requirements to protect the public and our children from these unnecessary health risks."
The department said Nuyen attended classes on the Lead Hazard Reduction Act in 1997 and 1998, a requirement for being a licensed real estate broker in Maryland and Virginia. The act, which became effective in 1996, requires landlords to give tenants an Environmental Protection Agency pamphlet about how to minimize the dangers to children, and it directs landlords to document their compliance with the law by keeping tenants' signatures on file, using a standard disclosure form.
In September 1998, the Department of Housing and Urban Development contacted Nuyen as part of a federal initiative to enforce the Lead Hazard Reduction Act. Nuyen had no lead paint disclosure forms at that time, but he arranged a subsequent meeting with HUD officials, in November 1998, in which he presented the agency with false and backdated forms.
The department said Nuyen admitted that he "sought to obstruct" the HUD investigation by backdating his signature, backdating tenant signatures and directing tenants to backdate forms by entering the date they moved into their apartments, rather than the date they were actually warned about health risks, which was years after their move-in dates.
In some cases, the tenant signatures were signed by Nuyen's resident property managers.
In addition to the obstruction of justice and false statements charges, Nuyen pleaded guilty to charges that he failed to provide the required lead-hazard pamphlet and lead-paint disclosure form. He also pleaded guilty to a charge that he made false statements in connection with an investigation of suspected mortgage fraud.

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