BATON ROUGE, LA - Acting United States Attorney Walt Green announced the sentencing of a former Operations Manager in connection with a wide ranging and ongoing investigation into corruption and fraud involving compliance with federal environmental laws.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady sentenced MICHAEL J. VAUGHN, age 33, of Addis, Louisiana, to 12 months incarceration at a federal half-way house, a five year term of probation, forfeiture of approximately $23,000, and restitution to the victims in an amount to be determined.
The defendant’s sentence is the result of his pleading guilty to making false statements within the jurisdiction of the federal government and conspiring to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act. Such 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.
While working as the FAS Operations Manager, the defendant 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 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.
Acting U.S. Attorney Green stated: “Prosecuting corporate fraud and violations of our nation’s environmental laws continues to be a high priority for this office. We look forward to continuing to work with our very able federal, state, and local partners to aggressively pursue such important matters.”
Ivan Vikin, Special Agent-in-Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Louisiana, stated: “One of EPA’s primary missions is to ensure that federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively. Violators who submit false information and illegally dispose of waste into injection wells 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: “Breaking the law and disregarding Louisiana’s environmental regulations can have serious consequences. With federal and state governments aggressively working together to enforce federal and state environmental laws, we can provide the citizens of Louisiana with a better environment and quality of life.”
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.