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2 convicted in Sept. 11 cleanup case

Associated Press / December 5, 2009

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NEW YORK - A former government official once lauded as a Sept. 11 hero was convicted yesterday of taking bribes to let an asbestos cleanup company overcharge for work on the World Trade Center cleanup.

A Manhattan jury convicted Mark Jakubek, who is a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey field operations manager, and a former colleague of charges including enterprise corruption, the state’s version of racketeering.

Jakubek, 50, and Anthony Fontanetta, 61, face mandatory prison terms of at least a year after being convicted in the first trial from the five-year-old indictment. Ten other people have pleaded guilty.

The two remain free while their lawyers plan arguments challenging the convictions. No sentencing date has been set, but they are due in court Jan. 20 for a status update.

“They’re obviously very disappointed,’’ said Jakubek’s lawyer, Glenn R. Abolafia. Fontanetta’s lawyer, Mark A. Macron, said his client was “despondent.’’

Jakubek was hailed for helping rescue people from an elevator during the 2001 terrorist attacks. Two years later, he pleaded guilty in a separate bribery case.

In 2004, Jakubek and Fontanetta were accused of taking sports and concert tickets and other bribes to let Specialty Service Contracting Inc. get away with padding its bills.

The company worked for the Port Authority at John F. Kennedy International Airport as well as on artifacts from the trade center site. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said the firm stole more than $60,000 through the ground zero cleanup project and millions of dollars overall.

Hired in February 2002 to clean up crushed police cars, pieces of steel, and other objects recovered from the destroyed twin towers, the company inflated equipment expenses and plumped up its payroll with no-show workers, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.

Two of Specialty Services’ co-owners and eight other people have pleaded guilty to various charges, according to prosecutors.

The remaining defendants, including a third Specialty Services owner, have denied the charges.

Defense lawyers argued that Jakubek and Fontanetta, an engineer, didn’t know about the billing practices.