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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Monday - June 2, 2003

LELAND (N. C.) COMPANY OFFICIAL SENTENCED
FOR POLLUTING CAPE FEAR RIVER WITH WASTE OIL


WILMINGTON - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that ANDREW JACKSON SIMMONS, JR., President of HIGH RISE SERVICES COMPANY, INC., of Leland, N. C., was sentenced in federal court in Wilmington on Monday, June 2, 2003, by Senior U. S. District Judge James C. Fox. SIMMONS and his company pled guilty to federal environmental and income tax violations on December 9, 2002, pursuant to plea agreements with the United States Attorney's Office.

SIMMONS, of Wilmington, N. C., received a sentence of 24 months imprisonment, a fine of $50,000.00, and a supervised release term of three years. Also, he was ordered to pay the costs of prosecution on the income tax charges.

HIGH RISE SERVICES COMPANY, INC., will be sentenced on September 2, 2003, in Wilmington.

A federal grand jury sitting in Greenville on December 6, 2001, indicted HIGH RISE, SIMMONS, and TONY PAUL NORRIS for illegally discharging waste oil into the Cape Fear River and also indicted SIMMONS and TERRY RAY HILL for violations of federal tax laws.

HIGH RISE SERVICES COMPANY, INC., pled guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act; the unlawful discharge of oil onto the shoreline and into the navigable waters of the United States; and improper storage of used oil. Also, the company pled guilty to a Criminal Information that charged it with conspiracy to impede and obstruct the Internal Revenue Service in the collection of taxes. SIMMONS pled guilty to the negligent discharge of pollutants and failure to report a spill. Additionally, he pled guilty to a Criminal Information that charged him with two counts of attempting to evade or defeat federal income taxes.

TONY PAUL NORRIS, of Leland, N. C., pled guilty to the negligent discharge of pollutants and making false statements and a writing to the United States Coast Guard. He was sentenced on March 31, 2003, to five years probation and a fine of $4,000.00.

TERRY RAY HILL, of Rocky Point, N. C., pled guilty to a Criminal Information that charged her with two counts of attempting to evade or defeat federal income taxes. Her sentencing is scheduled for June 23, 2003, in Wilmington. She could face a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of $500,000.00, and a supervised release term of three years.

According to the 12-count Indictment, HIGH RISE SERVICES COMPANY, INC., was in the business of refining used oils and blending them to create a usable product. In addition, the company was in the business of cleaning storage tanks. The Indictment alleged that in November of 1997, ANDREW JACKSON SIMMONS, JR. andTONY PAUL NORRIS conspired to discharge oil into the Cape Fear River, in violation of the Clean Water Act. At the time of the discharge, SIMMONS, the President and 100% shareholder of the company, and NORRIS, the foreman of the tank farm at the Leland facility, "being persons in charge of an onshore facility," failed to immediately notify the appropriate federal agency as soon as they had knowledge of the discharge.

The Indictment also alleged that HIGH RISE SERVICES COMPANY, INC., SIMMONS, and NORRIS knowingly violated the used oil regulations by storing used oil in leaking or unlabelled containers.

The Indictment further alleged that SIMMONS and NORRIS knowingly obstructed justice and made false statements to the U. S. Coast Guard.

The Indictment also charged SIMMONS and TERRY RAY HILL with conspiring to impede the Internal Revenue Service in its lawful function of collecting taxes. According to the Indictment, employees of HIGH RISE SERVICES COMPANY, INC. were paid overtime wages and salaries, which were not reported to the IRS, and corporate income was diverted to the personal use of company owner,ANDREW J. SIMMONS, JR.

U. S. Attorney Whitney said, "These convictions are the culmination of a four-year investigation, which began after the discharge of pollutants into the Cape Fear River in violation of the environmental laws. The discharge resulted in an extensive oil sheen on the river and necessitated a significant response by the United States Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Wilmington. The ensuing criminal investigation revealed obstructive conduct, which materially affected the Coast Guard's initial response to the discharge and hampered their clean-up efforts. With this case, we also send the message that there is no profit in failing to fully report all employment taxes."

He added, "Our office is committed to vigorous enforcement of federal environmental and tax laws in the Eastern District of North Carolina."

Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Thomas, of the IRS Criminal Investigation Charlotte Field Office, said, "Employment tax crimes are an area of concern for IRS Criminal Investigation. We are investigating these types of crimes that enrich the business owner at the expense of their employees and business competitors who are honest taxpayers paying their fair share."

Investigation of the case was conducted by the U. S. Coast Guard, Marine Safety Office, Wilmington, N. C.; the U. S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the N. C. State Bureau of Investigation; the Criminal Investigation Division of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, with assistance by the N. C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Assistant U. S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan handled the case for the government.

 

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney's web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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