Detroit — The father of an assistant coach with the Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks was arrested Thursday and charged with illegally removing asbestos from a shuttered Detroit public school.
Dearborn resident Sam Saleh, 66, was released on $10,000 unsecured bond following an emotional arraignment in federal court. Saleh hung his head and quietly wept, his hands and ankles shackled, as U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurie Michelson read the charge against him, which is punishable by up to five years in federal prison.
Saleh’s son Robert was a Seahawks assistant coach who coached in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6. The 35-year-old was hired days later as linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Sam Saleh was accused in a 22-page complaint of violating the Clean Air Act while working on the demolition of Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary on Ogden on Detroit’s west side.
Saleh’s court-appointed lawyer James Gerometta declined comment Thursday.
Saleh, who owns a demolition company, was hired in early 2013 after bidding on the job. His $338,000 bid included an estimate of $100,000 to remove asbestos from the school, according to court records.
Saleh told investigators he farmed out the asbestos work to a man, Jesse Brown. Saleh said he later watched Brown’s crew improperly remove asbestos from a pipe with “nothing but a razor blade,” according to an affidavit signed by Carol Paszkiewicz, a special agent with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Contractors are required to apply water to asbestos-containing material and properly remove it, under federal law.
Saleh told investigators he had the school’s water shut off earlier in the year.
“Saleh added that he did not know where the workers would have even gotten water for the sprayers,” Paszkiewicz wrote.
During a July interview with investigators, Saleh said he had read the Clean Air Act and said “I know I’m responsible,” according to the criminal complaint. “Nothing was done in accordance with procedure, nothing was done right.”
Saleh never encouraged Brown to do anything illegal, the EPA agent wrote.
Brown also was charged Thursday in federal court.