Guilty pleas in Rocky River fish-Kill Case; Restitution will be used to restock the river with steelhead trout
A Strongsville company and the company owner’s wife pleaded guilty for their roles in the dumping of a drum of liquid cyanide into a storm drain that flowed into the Rocky River, resulting in the death of more than 30,000 fish, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Kennedy Mint, Inc. pleaded guilty to violating of the Clean Water Act.
Teresina Montorsi, 74, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.
“Clean, fresh water is Ohio’s greatest natural resource,” Dettelbach said. “We are satisfied that we were able to determine who put the cyanide into the river and killed tens of thousands of fish. The restitution from this case will be used to restock the river with fish, so that people can again enjoy the natural beauty of the Rocky River.”
“Our natural resources must be protected from illegal discharges,” said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “This prosecution sends a clear message that crimes against the environment will not be tolerated and will be vigorously prosecuted.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said: “Illegal dumping into Ohio sewers brings severe consequences, both for our environment and for perpetrators. We will continue to work with other agencies to bring justice to those who violate environmental laws and to protect Ohio’s valuable natural resources.”
Company owner Renato Montorsi was indicted last year, but those charges were dismissed after he wasfound to be incompetent to stand trial.
Renato and Teresina Montorsi are married and live in Grafton, Ohio, according to public records.
Kennedy Mint will pay restitution of $30,893 -- $1 for every fish killed by the illegal discharge. The money will be paid to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and used to restock the river with steelhead trout under the terms of the plea agreement.
Kennedy Mint will also make a payment to the Cleveland Metroparks. The amount will be determined at sentencing, which is scheduled for Aug. 29.
Renato Montorsi owned and operated Kennedy Mint, which is located in Strongsville. Kennedy Mint specializes in collectible coins, but previously conducted metal plating and printing operations. The East Branch of the Rocky River is near the Kennedy Mint facility and storm water from that location’s parking lot flows into the East Branch of the Rocky River, according to court documents.
On April 16, 2012, Montorsi, with assistance from an employee, put two drums into a dumpster outside Kennedy Mint. On April 17, the waste hauling company declined to dispose of the contents of the dumpster because of the two drums inside, according to court documents.
On April 18, Montorsi moved the drums from the dumpster and placed them next to the storm drain in the Kennedy Mint parking lot, according to court documents.
Later that day, Montorsi used a hammer and sharp metal tool to punch a hole near the bottom of a drum that included a poison label featuring a skull and cross bones. After punching the hole, liquid cyanide in the drum was discharged into the storm drain and eventually the East Branch of the Rocky River, according to court documents.
Around April 22, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources received reports of dead fish in the East Branch of the Rocky River. Nearly every fish was dead downstream for the next three miles, according to the court documents.
The Ohio DNR counted approximately 30,893 dead fish in that three-mile stretch of the river, due to the discharge of cyanide, according to court documents.
On April 25, personnel from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency asked to enter the Kennedy Mint facility to look for the drums, which they did not locate. After they left, Renato Montorsi, with help from Teresina Montorsi, moved two drums from Kennedy Mint to their residence so they would not be discovered if investigators returned, according to court documents.
On June 22, Teresina Montorsi gave permission to U.S. EPA agents to search their home without a warrant, at which point the agents found the punctured drum and another drum that contained cyanide, according to court documents.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S Attorney Brad J. Beeson following an investigation by the following agencies: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation; the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District; the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Special Investigations; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, and the Cleveland Metroparks Rangers, all members of the Northeast Ohio Environmental Crimes Task Force.
People can report possible environmental violations to Ohio EPA at 800-282-9378 or U.S. EPA at www.epa.gov/tips