FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2003
HAZARDOUS WASTE HANDLER IN LOS ANGELES SENTENCED
TO 37 MONTHS FOR CONSPIRING TO VIOLATE FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, and Debra W. Yang, United States Attorney for the Central District of California, announced today that in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, California Hormoz Pourat, Vice President of AAD Distribution and Dry Cleaning Services, Inc. (AAD) and Manager of Right Choice, Inc., was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.29 million in penalties for conspiring to violate hazardous waste laws at these two facilities. Additionally, Mr. Pourant will not be allowed to engage in any business dealing with hazardous waste during his probationary term which will be three years.
“Mr. Pourat engaged in long-term and elaborate schemes to hide his violations from city and state inspectors so that he and his partners could continue to make a profit at their customers’ expense,” said Assistant Attorney General Sansonetti. “But their schemes ultimately failed as is evidenced by his sentencing today.”
AAD, which was one of California’s largest handlers of dry cleaning waste until it was shut down in January 2001, charged dry cleaning establishments to pick up, treat, and arrange for the disposal of a hazardous dry cleaning compound called perchloroethylene or PERC. PERC, a cancer-causing chemical, is the number one contaminant of groundwater in Southern California. Right Choice, which was located directly next door to AAD, was in the business of picking up and arranging for the disposal of hazardous, flammable solvents from automotive repair shops and other businesses.
According to the plea agreement, the defendant continued to pick up drums of PERC waste from its customers between January 1, 1999, and July 19, 2000, and store them at AAD even after the facility had greatly exceeded the storage limit for hazardous waste containers under its state hazardous waste permit. In order to hide these permit violations from city and state inspectors, the defendant and his partners loaded drums filled with PERC waste onto trucks before inspections, shipped them off-site, and then stored them at other facilities that were not permitted to store hazardous wastes. The manifests for these shipments were falsified to conceal these illegal shipments. The defendant pleaded guilty to a similar scheme at Right Choice by storing drums of hazardous solvent wastes on-site without a permit and then hiding these drums from inspectors by transporting them off-site.
Two other defendants were also charged. Behzad Kahoolyzadeh was charged for conspiring to violate hazardous waste laws at AAD and is scheduled for trial on January 27, 2003. Harry Pourat, Hormoz’s brother, fled the country to Scotland after being indicted and later committed suicide.
Cleanup costs for the AAD facility and the other facilities that were illegally storing AAD PERC wastes totaled approximately $1 million.
Hormoz Pourat is age 45 and maintains a residence in Encino, California.
The cases were investigated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigations Division; the United States Department of Transportation; the California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control; the City of Vernon; and the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office.