Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh today criminally charged a contractor for his role in the 2018 demolition the Vincent’s Orphan Asylum building in Upton.
According to a criminal information released by Frosh’s office today, William Anthony Culler II, owner of the Culler Group, is charged with one count of failing to obtain a permit and seven counts of failing to follow state code for such projects.
Among those seven counts are charges that Culler did not prevent asbestos from becoming airborne, post the required signage, provide protective clothing for workers or pull a license from the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Each misdemeanor count carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $25,000 fine.
“We allege Culler illegally demolished these buildings without proper notice and authorization, and without the required safeguards in place,” Frosh said in a statement. “Asbestos is an extremely hazardous substance and can become airborne during demolition, endangering the health of workers and the surrounding community, including children.”
According to local preservation nonprofit Baltimore Heritage, the building, located at 1411 Division St., was part of a complex constructed between 1860 and the 1910s to “provide housing and medical services to dependent children and women, along with housing for the nuns who operated the facility.”
The asylum moved to a Reisterstown Road location in 1934, and seven years later the Division Street structure was converted into apartments. A fire in 2015 destroyed the roof and gutted much of the interior.
Property records indicate a company called HMJ 1411 Division, LLC sold the building in June of 2016 for $866,400.
The purchaser, a company called 1411 Division Street LLC, has since forfeited its business license and is listed in state business records as “not in good standing.” The LLC was registered by Michael Chetrit of the Chetrit Organization LLC.
Demolition of the structure began in February 2018. The Culler Group posted about the work on its Facebook page, even writing, “We’re bringing this baby down!!! Tear the roof off the MothaSucka!” (That post was deleted shortly after the deconstruction got publicity.)
Months after issuing a stop work order on Feb. 24, the city assessed $463,772 in penalties on the owner.
Last July, Frosh filed a civil complaint against both 1411 Division Street LLC and The Culler Group, alleging the demolition violated the state’s asbestos control laws and the owners “knowingly and willfully” violated an order from the Maryland Department of the Environment to remediate the site after the building was torn down.
A lab analysis conducted in March 2018 confirmed there presence of asbestos at the property, the attorney general’s filing said.
The suit sought to have the defendants hire a licensed asbestos contractor to clear the site and pay fines of $25,000 per violation, per day for each of the alleged 20 violations.
In December, a judge granted an order of default against the The Culler Group, meaning the firm did not respond to the civil complaint in time and was found guilty. The court hasn’t yet issued an order on what corrective action the company has to take, a spokesperson for Frosh’s office said.
The case against 1411 Division Street LLC is still ongoing.
A call to The Culler Group’s Pikesville office was not immediately returned.
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