FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, June 15, 2006
RALEIGH - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that JERRY GASKILL, 63, of Cedar Island, N.C., former Director of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division, was convicted today by a jury in United States District Court, in Raleigh, North Carolina with making a material false statement to a federal agency and aiding and abetting the same, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1001 and 2.
Evidence presented at trial showed that GASKILL submitted and caused to be submitted false statements to the United States Army Corps of Engineers in connection with an investigation of “prop washing,” that is, an unauthorized dredging by the use of the propellers of NC DOT vessels in navigable waters near Corolla, North Carolina. On June 25, 2004, after the commencement of state and federal regulatory investigations, GASKILL signed and submitted a written false statement claiming that the creation of the channel was unintentional. The false statement obstructed the agency’s effort to determine the violator so that remediation efforts could begin at the site.
The unauthorized prop washing created a 730-foot long by 30-foot wide by 5-foot deep channel which resulted in the destruction of an essential fish habitat that supports commercially important fish and wildlife species found in the area.
GASKILL could receive a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and 3 years of supervised release. A sentencing date has not been set.
United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney stated that “there must be strict adherence to the environmental regulations protecting the natural resources in the Eastern District of North Carolina. This case reflects our office’s on-going commitment to pursuing those persons and entities who willfully disregard those regulations or otherwise interfere with a regulatory investigation.”
“The jury found that the defendant misled authorities regarding the illegal dredging of a ‘nationally important’ marine and wildlife habitat,” said Fred Burnside, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division - Atlanta Area Office. He further stated “this conviction sends the clear message that no violator – public or private is above the law.”
Investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service with the assistance of the United States Army Corps of Engineers - Wilmington District. Assistant United States Attorneys Banumathi Rangarajan and Thomas B. Murphy 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.