Local Developer Indicted for Obstruction of Justice
BUFFALO, N.Y.– U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. and Acting Assistant Attorney Robert G. Dreher, of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced today that a federal grand jury has returned a five count Indictment charging William L. Huntress, 57, of Buffalo, N.Y., and two companies he controlled, Acquest Development, LLC and Acquest Transit, LLC, with conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. In addition, Huntress and the companies are charged with making a false statement and concealing material facts, and criminal contempt. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.
According to the indictment, in January 2006, the defendants purchased a 97-acre piece of property at 10880 Transit Road in Amherst, N.Y. Prior to the purchase, the defendants obtained a wetland delineation for the site which concluded that 76.3 acres or 79% of the site qualified as federally jurisdictional wetlands. After the purchase, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began an investigation to determine whether the site contained federal wetlands and was within the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. As part of that investigation, the EPA sought information from the defendants, including a request for any prior wetland delineations conducted.
Also according to the indictment, the defendants failed to disclose the existence of their prior wetland delineation, and made false statements regarding activity that was occurring on the site. The indictment further states that in a civil lawsuit involving defendant Acquest Transit, the United States District Court for the Western District of New York enjoined that company and its officers, agents and employees from performing any further earthmoving activity. However, in May 2010, defendant Huntress hired a local farmer to conduct agricultural and earthmoving activity on the site.
The same defendants were charged in an indictment on November 9, 2011. That indictment was dismissed by the District Court in an order dated March 25, 2013.
The Indictment is the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-In-Charge, Vernesa Jones-Allen. The evidence was presented to the Grand Jury by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mango and Trial Attorney Gleason, who will handle the trial of the case.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.