- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

A Silver Spring landlord was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to two years in prison for obstructing an investigation and making false statements to authorities to conceal his failure to notify his tenants about the presence of and hazards associated with lead-based paint in his building.
David D. Nuyen, 65, also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow to pay a fine of $50,000 and to provide all tenants with new notices about lead-paint assessments performed by an independent contractor, as required under the terms of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
The case is the first-ever criminal prosecution in the United States related to failure to give lead-hazard warnings required by the Lead Hazard Reduction Act of 1992.
Justice Department officials said Nuyen, who owned and managed 15 low-income apartment buildings in the District and Maryland, admitted knowing lead-paint hazards were in one of his apartment buildings but failed to disclose lead-paint hazards before leasing to tenants.
"Lead poisoning perils have long been known, and laws exist to protect people especially children from being exposed to lead hazards," said Asistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti, who heads the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
"This case exemplifies our commitment to enforce the federal lead-disclosure requirements to protect the public and our children from these unnecessary health risks."
The Lead Hazard Reduction Act requires landlords to warn tenants about actual and potential lead-paint hazards in their properties. The law also directs landlords to document their compliance with the law by keeping lead-disclosure forms and tenant signatures on file.
Department officials said Nuyen had attended classes on the act in 1997 and 1998 to fulfill his requirements to continue to be licensed as a real estate agent in Maryland and Virginia.
In September 1998, the Department of Housing and Urban Development contacted Nuyen as part of a federal initiative to determine whether he was complying with the Lead Hazard Reduction Act, the officials said. They said Nuyen had no lead-paint disclosure forms at that time, but arranged a subsequent meeting with HUD officials in November 1998, during which he presented the agency with false and backdated forms at his office in Hyattsville.
According to court records, Nuyen admitted 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.
In some cases, the records said, tenant signatures were signed by Nuyen's resident property managers.
Nuyen also admitted to asking tenants to sign false documents and to giving perjured testimony to a federal grand jury.
In addition to the obstruction of justice and false statements charges in Maryland, Nuyen was sentenced on a companion case in the District charging that he failed to provide the required lead warning and lead-hazard pamphlet in violation of the Lead Hazard Reduction Act.
He also was sentenced for a separate false statement to HUD in an application for approval to originate home mortgages that was uncovered during the investigation.
Although ingesting lead is hazardous to all humans, children under 6 are at the greatest risk of lead poisoning because their bodies are still developing and ordinary hand-to-mouth activity brings them into frequent contact with lead in paint chips, dust and soil.
Mr. Sansonetti said lead adversely affects virtually every system of the body and can impair a child's central nervous system, kidneys and bone marrow. High levels of expsoure can cause coma, convulsions and death.


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