FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
"CAPTAIN" COOK CONVICTED FOR ILLEGALLY DUMPING ASBESTOS
INTO THE SEA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Justice and the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia today announced that a federal jury has convicted the individual responsible for illegally dumping trash bags full of asbestos into the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.
Mr. Ronald Cook, age 64, had been hired to lead a crew performing demolition on an old ferry boat, the Muskegan Clipper, as it sailed from San Diego, California, through the Panama Canal to Mobile, Alabama. The ship was eventually to be transformed into a riverboat gambling casino. In order to save time and costs, the crew bagged up the demolition debris, including plastic garbage bags full of asbestos, and threw it overboard into the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Carribean Sea at the direction of Mr. Cook. Dissenting crew members photographed the others as they threw the asbestos and trash into the sea.
The exact amount of asbestos that was removed from the Muskegon Clipper, a U.S. registered vessel, and dumped overboard is unknown. Witnesses reported that "hundreds" of bags were dumped. It is assumed that a significant amount was discharged, as the asbestos removal contract was estimated to cost between $600,000 and $1.7 million.
"Those who perpetrate crimes in violation of our environmental laws will be tracked down and prosecuted," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "I'm please to see criminals like this brought to justice."
Cook, a Canadian citizen from Victoria, British Columbia, was extradited from Canada in November 2002. He has been convicted on all three counts of an indictment which charged him with conspiracy and substantive counts filed under the Ocean Dumping Act and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. Cook's trial was held in the District of Columbia because the dumping occurred in international waters and Cook is not a citizen of the United States.
In announcing today's conviction, Assistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti and United States Attorney Roscoe C. Howard, Jr. commended the work of Resident Agent in Charge Lisa Wild Desiderio of the Environmental Protection Agency, Special Agent Brad Godshall of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Corporal Donald Southern of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They also praised Assistant United States Attorney Wendy Wysong and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Mark Kotila.