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2012 Major Criminal Cases
Clean Air Act (CAA)
Pelican Refining Co. (CAA, Title 18, Louisiana)
Pelican Refining Company pleaded guilty to felony violations of the Clean Air Act and to obstruction of justice charges in federal court in Lafayette, La. Pelican paid $12 million in criminal penalties, including $2 million in community service payments that will go toward various environmental projects in Louisiana, including air pollution monitoring. It marks the largest ever criminal fine in Louisiana for violations of the Clean Air Act. Pelican would also be banned from future refinery operations unless and until it implements an environmental compliance plan, which includes external auditing by independent firms and oversight by a court appointed monitor.
Officials of Pelican, headquartered in Houston and operating a refinery in Lake Charles, LA, admitted that the company had violated numerous aspects of its operating permit. The violations were discovered during a March 2006 inspection by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and EPA, which identified numerous unsafe operating conditions. Pelican also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for submitting materially false deviation reports to LDEQ, the agency that administers the federal Clean Air Act in Louisiana.
Two Pelican executives also pled guilty to negligently placing persons in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury as a result of negligent releases at the refinery. (However, they each received only one day of incarceration in addition to small fines and probation or home confinement). For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Carlos Garcia (CAA, Title 18, Florida)
Carlos Garcia, 52, was sentenced to prison in Miami for his role in the illegal receipt, purchase, and sale of ozone-depleting refrigerant gas that had been smuggled into the United States contrary to the Clean Air Act, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 545.He received a thirteen month term of imprisonment, followed by a two-year term of supervised release that includes four months of home confinement under electronic monitoring. Garcia previously pled guilty to a charge of knowingly receiving, buying, selling and facilitating the transportation, concealment, and sale of approximately 13,600 kilograms of the ozone-depleting substance hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22). HCFC-22 is a widely used refrigerant for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems.
Garcia’s employer, Mar-Cone Appliance Parts Co. (Marcone), was previously convicted and sentenced for their role in the illicit conduct and ordered to pay a $500,000 criminal fine, a $400,000 community service payment, and was ordered to forfeit to the United States $190,534.70 in illegal proceeds. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Columbus Steel Castings Company, Inc. (CAA, Ohio)
Columbus Steel Castings, Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced to pay $825,000 and install additional devices to prevent air pollution after pleading guilty to six counts of violating the Clean Air Act. The violations include failing to operate air pollution controls, failing to report violations, failing to perform required monitoring, and failing to conduct stack testing to demonstrate compliance with the Clean Air Act.
The company admitted that between 2004 and 2007 it failed to operate air pollution controls for four different emission sources at the plant for varying periods of time. The company also failed to report malfunctions of air pollution control equipment. Daily visual emission checks, designed to determine if the plant was emitting excess dust or smoke, were not conducted on weekends while the facility was operating. The company also failed to submit accurate annual compliance certifications.
The company was sentenced to pay a $660,000 fine and a total of $165,000 to two different Columbus charitable organizations, Grange Insurance Audubon Center and Physicians Free Clinic, which serve residents who live near the plant. One project will fund a program that provides environmental education to students. The other project will provide medical services, medications, and transportation services for residents of the south side of Columbus with ailments, including, asthma, and treatments, including medications, related to respiratory illnesses. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Duane O’Malley (CAA, Illinois)
Duane O’Malley, 59, of Bourbonnais, Ill., who was convicted by a federal jury on September 26, 2011, for the illegal removal, handling and disposal of asbestos from a Kankakee building in August 2009, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. O’Malley was also ordered to pay restitution of $47,086 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) related to the clean-up of illegally disposed asbestos and ordered to pay a fine of $15,000. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
William Morgan (CAA, Title 18, Michigan)
William Morgan, the former supervisor of Royal Oak Township, a suburb of Detroit, was sentenced in federal court to three years in prison. Mr. Morgan had previously entered a guilty plea to charges that he conspired to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), violate the Clean Air Act’s asbestos requirements, and commit bribery. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause serious health problems. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Rodney Hailey [CAA, Title 18: Conviction Only, Sentenced Scheduled for October 2012 ( FY 2013)]
Rodney R. Hailey, owner of Clean Green Fuel, LLC, located in the Baltimore area. was convicted by a federal jury on June 25, 2012 of wire fraud, money laundering and a violation of the Clean Air Act, in connection with a scheme in which he sold $9 million in renewable fuel credits which he falsely claimed were produced by his company, Clean Green Fuel, LLC.
According to evidence presented at the six day trial, Hailey registered Clean Green Fuel with the EPA as a producer of bio-diesel fuel Between March 2009 and December 2010, Hailey sold over 35 million RINs (representing 23 million gallons of bio-diesel fuel) to brokers and oil companies for at least $9 million, when in fact Clean Green Fuel had produced no fuel at all and Hailey did not have a facility capable of producing bio-diesel fuel. For more information read the DOJ press release.
Clean Water Act (CWA)
Freedman Farms Inc. (CWA, North Carolina)
Freedman Farms, a CAFO, was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $1.5 million in fines, restitution and community service payments for violating the Clean Water Act when they discharged hog waste into a stream that leads to the Waccamaw River. William B. Freedman, president of Freedman Farms, was sentenced to six months in prison to be followed by six months of home confinement. Freedman Farms also is required to implement a comprehensive environmental compliance program and institute an annual training program. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Bottiglieri Shipping Company (Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, AL)
Giusseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company, headquartered in Italy, and the chief engineer of one of its ships, were sentenced in federal court in Mobile, Ala., for deliberately falsifying records to conceal discharges of oily wastewater from the ship directly into the sea. The company will pay a $1 million criminal fine, serve four years of probation, and make a $300,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The company must also fund and implement a comprehensive environmental compliance plan during the term of probation. Chief Engineer Vito La Forgia was sentenced by Judge Granade to one month in jail. Both pled previously to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Patrick Dooley (CWA, Washington)
Patrick Dooley, a Seattle business owner of Bargains, Inc., aka AAA Liquidating Services, Inc., who directed a teen-age employee to illegally dispose of hazardous chemicals, was sentenced to 33 months in prison, and three years of supervised release after being convicted of three counts of Clean Water Act violations and one count of witness tampering related to an August 2010 hazardous materials event. Two chemicals reacted to produce chlorine gas of a sufficient concentration to cause the juvenile employee to have difficulty breathing, resulting in emergency medical personnel taking him to a nearby hospital where he was treated and released. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company (FIFRA, OHIO)
Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a producer of pesticides for commercial and consumer lawn and garden uses, was sentenced in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio, to pay a $4 million fine and perform community service for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which governs the manufacture, distribution, and sale of pesticides. Scotts pleaded guilty to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides. Scotts also pleaded guilty to submitting false documents to EPA and to state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive them into believing that numerous pesticides were registered with EPA when in fact they were not. This is the largest criminal penalty under FIFRA to date. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Bugman Pest and Lawn, Inc. (FIFRA, Utah)
Bugman Pest and Lawn, and Coleman Nocks, were sentenced in federal court in Salt Lake City to a misdemeanor count of unlawful use of a registered pesticide. The convictions relate to the application of a registered pesticide at a home which resulted in the deaths of two children. Both defendants had previously pled guilty. The misdemeanor FIFRA charges in this case carry the same penalty as the crime of negligent homicide available under state law. Nocks, who was a licensed commercial applicator of pesticides and an employee of Bugman, admitted that he used Fumitoxin, a registered, restricted use pesticide, at the home of a customer of his employer. Nocks admitted that he applied Fumitoxin into a burrow system that was closer than 15 feet to the residence and that he exceeded dosage requirements for the pesticide. Nocks acknowledged in his plea agreement that his conduct caused the death of two minor children at the residence. Nocks was sentenced to three years' probation and 100 hours of community service. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
(Note: The enforcement provisions of FIFRA only provide for misdemeanors.)
Resource Conservations and Recovery Act (RCRA)
Edward Wyman (RCRA, California)
Edward Wyman was sentenced to five years in federal prison for illegally storing toxic and explosive hazardous wastes in his backyard, materials that posed an imminent danger to nearby residents. The sentence is the longest handed down by a California federal judge in a hazardous waste case. Wyman was also ordered to pay $800,000 to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9 Emergency Response Office for costs associated with a 47-day clean-up.
Wyman was convicted by a federal jury following a five-day trial. In addition to convicting Wyman of violating the RCRA, the jury made a special finding that the defendant’s conduct knowingly placed another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. During the clean-up, EPA contractors were forced to call out the Los Angeles Police Department Bomb and Arson Squad seven times to deal with possible explosives mixed into the burned debris.
Wyman was charged in June 2009, after firefighters responded to a report of a fire and explosions at Wyman’s residence. Because of the ammunition that was being “cooked off” in the fire, firefighters had to wear bullet proof vests. Investigators at the scene discovered a large cache of toxic materials, including thousands of rounds of corroded ammunition, highly reactive lead-contaminated waste from shooting ranges, hundreds of pounds of decades-old gunpowder and military M6 cannon powder, and industrial solvents that contained 1,1,1-trichloroethane and tetrachloroethylene, two potent chemicals that are listed as hazardous substances under federal law. Wyman did not have a permit to store any of the materials. For more information read the complete summary of the case.
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
Cephus R. Murrell, age 69, of Catonsville, Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, followed by six months of home detention as part of one year supervised release, for improper lead paint abatement at rental properties owned and managed by Murrell, as well as failure to disclose to tenants the presence of documented lead-based paint hazards. Murrell owns and manages approximately 175 rental housing units throughout Baltimore. Murrell had lead-abatement work proceed at apartments he owned without a supervisor on site to ensure the work was done properly and his company failed to disclose to tenants the presence of documented lead-based paint hazards when they rented units he owned and managed. For more information read the complete summary of the case.