Jonathan Shokrian, an SMU Alum/Hipster Underwear Salesman, Allegedly Exposed Day Laborers to Asbestos
If you've ever felt the urge to buy a single pair of fancy underpants for $16 from a bunch of bros with cool Facebook pictures, then you may have heard of Jonathan Shokrian. In the tech and fashion press, he's known as the CEO of a very hip underwear website called MeUndies.com.
"We're never going to be Calvin Klein," Shokrian told The New York Times last May. "This is like American Apparel, but more tasteful."
Here's what's not tasteful: The Environmental Protection Agency says that Shokrian exposed day laborers to toxic asbestos when he was a student at SMU, working for his dad's construction company and trying to save money on asbestos removal.
Shokrian was just sentenced to a year in prison and a $25,000 fine for violating the Clean Air Act. He pleaded guilty
to the charges to one count of failure to notify under the act.
Shokrian passed along our questions about the charges to an attorney, Stephen L. Joseph, who says that "this story is not that simple." Joseph promised to send a statement explaining the real story as of 10 a.m., though we still don't have it. (
We'll add an update when and if that arrives See the update below).
At the time of the contamination, Shokrian was working for a property company called Califco that's run by his dad. He worked in Irving as the company's regional director while also juggling being a student at SMU.
Most of Califco's properties are near Beverly Hills, where the company is based, but they have a few notable properties in Dallas. One of those is the high-end 3200 Thomas townhome complex in Uptown, of which Shokrian oversaw the construction.
"The construction costs were just skyrocketing," Shokrian prophetically griped to the Dallas Business Journal in 2006.
A few years later, Shokrian went to work at the Crest Plaza Shopping Center in Dallas. The building was contaminated with asbestos, as many old buildings are, and he hired a specialized contractor to remove it, according to the government's complaint. So far, so good.
But later that year, Shokrian decided to get asbestos removed from a different building, the abandoned Fazio's department store in the Plymouth Park Shopping Center. And this time, there would be no specialized asbestos contractor.
Instead, he hired two day laborers. To be fair, he did provide the day laborers with some masks, respirators and other tools, but the masks "were not adequate to protect them from asbestos fiber," the government's complaint says. The feds also charge that Shokrian failed to tell other tenants in the building or the workers themselves that they were unleashing a known carcinogen in the air.
Starting in November 2008, the feds say, Shokrian had laborers use floor grinders and hand tools to remove the asbestos from the floor tiles. They then dumped the asbestos into a bin to go to a city landfill, according to the complaint. The gloriously low-budget asbestos renovation came to a halt in February 2009, when, allegedly under Shokrian's supervision, the day laborers poured large amounts of gasoline over the contaminated floor tiles.
Read on for the Irving Fire Department report.