Vaughn Guilty Plea
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today the conviction of a former Operations Manager in connection with a wide ranging federal and state investigation into corruption and fraud surrounding federal environmental laws.
MICHAEL J. VAUGHN, age 33, of Addis, Louisiana, pled guilty this morning before U.S. District Judge James J. Brady to a previously sealed Bill of Information charging him with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, making false statements within the jurisdiction of the federal government, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, and forfeiture. As a result of his convictions, the defendant faces up to ten (10) years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, forfeiture of the proceeds of the offenses, restitution to victims, and a three year term of supervised release following imprisonment. The sentencing date has not yet been set.
The defendant’s convictions stem from actions he took while serving as the Operations Manager of FAS Environmental Services, a transportation and disposal company based in Belle River, Louisiana. In that role, the defendant oversaw all operations and employees at the company.
During today’s hearing, the defendant admitted that, while working as the FAS Operations Manager, he took over $22,000 in kickbacks during 2011 and 2012 from a wastewater brokerage firm in exchange for illegally using an FAS injection well in Belle River to dispose of over 380,000 gallons of industrial wastewater in violation of the Federal Safe Water Drinking Act. As part of the scheme, the defendant further admitted that he and his fellow conspirators created and used over 100 false documents, including manifests and work orders, in addition to submitting false reports to regulators in Baton Rouge. Such false and fraudulent documents were designed to conceal the scheme from federal and state government officials and the brokerage firm’s unsuspecting clients.
FAS ownership was unaware of the defendant’s scheme, which resulted in the misuse of FAS resources to the sole benefit of the defendant personally and his fellow conspirators. FAS has cooperated fully throughout the investigation and terminated the defendant’s employment with the company upon learning of the scheme.
U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated: “My office, together with our federal, state, and local partners, will always be vigilant and aggressive in enforcing federal criminal environmental laws, particularly where violations are accompanied by corporate fraud and corruption. The corruption of our environmental regulatory system presents serious and unacceptable economic and physical risks to everyone living and working in Louisiana, and it will not be tolerated.”
“One of EPA’s primary missions is to ensure that federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively. To do that, we must receive accurate and honest tests and measurements,” said Ivan Vikin, Special Agent-in-Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Louisiana. “Violators who submit false information undermine the government’s efforts to protect the public and the environment. These illegal actions cannot and will not be tolerated. EPA and its partner agencies will vigorously pursue those who knowingly falsify official information and place the public at potential risk.”
Secretary Peggy Hatch of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality stated: “This is an example of local, state and federal agencies working together to keep Louisiana’s environment clean. We are working together so people will think twice and make better decisions when it comes to skirting the environmental laws in order to make money or save money.”
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by this office, the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Corey R. Amundson who serves as the Senior Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.