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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Monday - January 31, 2005

VIRGINIA DARE MEMORIAL BRIDGE, MANTEO, N. C.,
PROJECT MANAGER SENTENCED IN FEDERAL COURT

Raleigh - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that MICHAEL EUGENE HILLYER was sentenced in federal court in Raleigh on Monday, January 31, 2005, for violating federal environmental laws. U. S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle imposed a sentence of three years of probation, 300 hours of community service, and a fine of $10,000.00.

HILLYER pled guilty on October 5, 2004, to a conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, and a substantive violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act, pursuant to a plea agreement with the U. S. Attorney's Office.

HILLYER's Indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury in Wilmington on May 26, 2004, alleged that he conspired with other individuals to discharge pollutants from a point source into, and to excavate, fill, and alter the course of, the Croatan Sound, a navigable water of the U. S., without a permit having been issued by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

According to the Indictment and information in the public record, HILLYER, 66, of Mt. Pleasant, S. C., was a Project Manager for Balfour Beatty Construction, Inc., an international construction company hired by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to construct a bridge from Manns Harbor to Manteo, N. C. HILLYER and his co-conspirators sought to avoid the environmental permit requirements in connection with the removal of certain construction equipment. Instead, the conspirators used the propellers of a tug boat to "prop wash" the Croatan Sound bottom. The conspirators also worked at night to avoid detection by inspectors.

As a result of the unauthorized conduct, the conspirators created a trench in Manns Harbor that measured approximately 600 feet in length, 60 feet in width, and 10 feet in depth. It is estimated that the conduct impacted over 8.2 acres of shallow water habitat. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has performed mitigation work at the site. The Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge is the state's longest bridge and spans 5.2 miles over designated high quality waters.

Balfour Beatty Construction, Inc., and two lower level employees previously pled guilty to Criminal Informations that charged each of them with a violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act, and a negligent violation of the Clean Water Act.

Investigation of the case was conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency; the N. C. State Bureau of Investigation; and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Assistant U. S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan prosecuted the case for the United States.

 

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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