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AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC at 410-209-4885
June 15, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO STORING HAZARDOUS WASTE
IN ABANDONED BALTIMORE WAREHOUSE
EPA Compelled to Remove 2½ Tons of Hazardous Waste at Cost of Over $500,000
BALTIMORE, Maryland - Frank R. Prince, age 64, of the U.S. Virgin Islands, pleaded guilty yesterday to the unpermitted storage of hazardous waste, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis scheduled sentencing for August 24, 2006 at 2:00 p.m.
According to the statement of facts provided to the court, from the mid-1990s until late 2001, Frank R. Prince owned Cosmechem Co., Inc. (“Cosmechem”) which was a Baltimore-based specialty chemical manufacturer of cleaners, soaps, and other products. Cosmechem’s warehouse is located in West Baltimore. Prince purchased the warehouse in 1997 for a reported amount of $86,000 with the help of a $36,000 loan from the Estate of Frank Ulrich, the previous owner of the property. Prince experienced difficulty making payments on the loan and there were frequent letters between Prince and the Estate’s attorney regarding Prince’s late payments and attempts to obtain financing in order to settle his debt to the Estate. Several letters between Prince and the attorney reveal Prince’s familiarity with potential environmental liabilities relating to real property transactions.
In June 2001, Prince stopped making loan payments and informed the Estate that Cosmechem was terminating all business activity, and that he was selling the Warehouse. On its understanding that the warehouse was not posted for sale, the Estate threatened to institute foreclosure proceedings. Mr. Prince, in the meantime, left Baltimore. The Estate made the decision to let the mortgage lien be canceled by a tax sale rather than advance any further funds.
In 2004, Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Region III Superfund personnel conducted an emergency removal of hazardous substances at the warehouse located at 215 N. Warwick Street, in Baltimore, Maryland. On April 19, 2004, Superfund personnel informed EPA Criminal Investigation Division (“CID”) that the warehouse contained abandoned materials, some of which were ignitable & corrosive hazardous wastes, in containers ranging from small lab vessels to 55-gallon drums. Superfund personnel completed the emergency removal on June 29, 2004, at an eventual cost of more than $500,000.
On May 11, 2004, CID executed a search warrant at the Warehouse, seizing documents and samples of suspected hazardous waste. Among the seized documents were Prince’s resume and a number of Material Safety Data Sheets (“MSDS’s”). Each MSDS contains information about an individual chemical or compound, including information about the hazards posed by that substance; proper handling of the substance; first aid for chemical exposure; and proper disposal.
The Superfund “After Action Report” for the site states that a total of 5,300 pounds of hazardous materials/hazardous substances were removed from the Warehouse. This total included more than 1,400 pounds of ignitable material and oxidizers (i.e., materials that would accelerate combustion), over 1,600 pounds of poisons (not further specified), and over 1,200 pounds of corrosives. The After Action report also indicates that xylene and methylene chloride were among the hazardous substances removed from the Warehouse. These commercial chemical products, when discarded, are also hazardous wastes.
CID located Prince, now living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and interviewed him on July 17, 2004. Prince acknowledged that, prior to leaving the property, he had obtained three quotes for the disposal of Cosmechem’s chemicals. He could not recall the names of the companies, but thought that one quote was for $5000. He claimed to lack the financial resources to pay for proper disposal, and said that he had suggested to the Estate that the property be sold and the proceeds used to pay for the cleanup. Prince was properly permitted to store the hazardous materials, but by leaving Baltimore and abandoning the stored materials, some of the materials converted into hazardous waste, which he did not have a permit to store.
Prince faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 fine.
United States Attorney Rosenstein praised the investigative work performed by the Environmental Protection Agency Region III Superfund personnel and EPA Criminal Investigation Division. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant U.S. Attorney P. Michael Cunningham, who is prosecuting the case.
This page last modifiedJune 15, 2006