Owners of a Fullerton heating and air-conditioning company pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of stealing customers' down payments and throwing asbestos-laden ducts into a college campus trash bin.
Timothy James Lester, 29, of Buena Park, and David Anthony Greenly, 24, of Huntington Beach have been charged with five counts of grand theft, three counts of theft from an elder and nine counts related to improperly dumping asbestos at Hope International University in Fullerton.
Lester and Greenly, owners of Best Home Services, are accused of soliciting customers over the phone, then going to their homes and collecting down payments of up to several thousand dollars along with their old heating or air-conditioning units.
In the six cases known to prosecutors, they never returned to install new units and would dispose of the asbestos ducts improperly, Deputy Dist. Atty. Catherine Borsetto said.
"I need to look at prosecutors' reports before I can really say anything," said Lester's attorney, Gene Dorney. "I do believe my client is innocent of these charges."
Greenly could not be reached.
Another employee, 56-year-old Eduardo Esquivel of Orange, has pleaded not guilty to three counts related to dumping of asbestos. Esquivel said Thursday he had found the hazardous material in the back of his truck one day while at the office and threw it into a trash bin in the college parking lot because he didn't know what it was.
His actions were caught on tape during surveillance by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which had started probing the business after receiving complaints that it was improperly handling asbestos.
"It was just trash to me," said Esquivel, who had been hired to clean carpets.
If convicted on all charges, Lester and Greenly each would face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Esquivel would face up to three years in prison.
Lester had been operating his business for at least three years, Borsetto said, under several names: Best Home Care, Best Home Air Care, California Clean Air, All Clean Home Care and A to Z Home Care.
Anyone who believes the company victimized them should call the Orange County district attorney's office hotline at (714) 347-8874.