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Environmental Crimes Bulletin February 2021

In this issue:

United States v. Severo Zamora et al., No. 4:21-CR-00024 (N.D. Tex.), AUSA Douglas A. Allen

On February 2, 2021, prosecutors charged Faiz Abdallahi and Severo Zamora with illegally importing approximately 2,300 cylinders of R-22 (aka HCFC-22) in May 2017 (18 U.S.C. § 545). The two submitted falsified and fraudulent documents to the Customs and Border Patrol indicating the cylinders contained R-32 (aka HFC-32), an acceptable refrigerant.

Following the implementation of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in January 2010, authorities banned all production, import and use of hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Trial is scheduled to begin on April 19, 2021. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol conducted the investigation. 

United States v. Theodore Lutton et al., No. 1:20-CR-00744 (N.D. Ohio), AUSAs Yasmine Makridis and Brad Beeson

On February 19, 2021, prosecutors charged Theodore Lutton and Christine Lutton with violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), drug charges, and illegally possessing 27 firearms (16 U.S.C. §§ 668a, 703, 707 (a); 18 U.S.C. §§ 922, 924; 21 U.S.C. §§ 841).

In October 2020, federal agents executed a search warrant at the Lutton residence. They seized 20 firearms, blasting caps, a hand grenade, Kevlar vests, a dead bald eagle, and an improvised explosive device. As a convicted felon for a prior drug conviction, Theodore Lutton cannot legally possess firearms. Investigators also found a frozen redtailed hawk, in violation of the MBTA. After arresting Lutton, investigators found additional firearms following the search of a second residence.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation.

United States v. Cory Hoskins, No. 20-CR-00010 (E.D. Ky.), AUSA Tashena Fannin, with assistance from ECS Assistant Chief Jennifer Whitfield

Sludge-filled containers

On February 24, 2021, Cory Hoskins pleaded guilty to violating the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act transporting radioactive material without shipping papers, placards, or proper labels (49 U.S.C. § 5124). Sentencing is scheduled for June 30, 2021. 

Hoskins began operating Advanced Tenorm Services, a small family-owned waste disposal business in 2015 Throughout the course of doing business, he purported to possess expertise in radiological testing, surveying, transporting, and disposing of various types of waste. Hoskins unlawfully transported thousands of tons of oil and gas waste (sludge) from Fairmont Brine Processing in West Virginia into Kentucky. Hoskins knew the sludge he offered to transport and dispose contained levels of radioactivity requiring HAZMAT endorsements in order to transport it. He ultimately caused the shipment of approximately 34 tractor-trailer sized containers (vacuum boxes) from West Virginia to the Blue Ridge Landfill in Irvine, Kentucky, concealing the true nature of the material from the trucking companies and drivers he hired to transport and mix the sludge along the way. State authorities closed the landfill within months of discovering the material, and continue to monitor and test the area for elevated radiation levels and potential harm to the surrounding environment.

The Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation.

United States v. James R. Petro, Jr., et al., Nos. 7:21-CR-00103, 00104 (S.D.N.Y.), AUSAs Margery Feinzig and James McMahon

Building demolition

On February 18, 2021, James R. Petro, Jr., and Richard McGoey pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act for causing the release of asbestos during a demolition project (42 U.S.C. § 7413(c)(4)). Sentencing is scheduled for May 27, 2021. 

In 1999, the Town of New Windsor, New York, purchased 250 acres from the Department of the Army. The property contained dozens of military barracks and other buildings built in the 1940’s. Following the purchase, the Town contracted with a Developer to lease and develop the land. The Town formerly employed Petro as a Planning and Zoning Coordinator and McGoey as an engineer. Between 2006 and 2009, New Windsor officials applied for a number of grants to abate asbestos in some of the buildings and completely demolish other buildings. Petro and McGoey participated in preparing and submitting the grant applications.

In May 2008, the Developer obtained a report from an asbestos inspector that confirmed ten buildings contained asbestos. In June 2012, the defendants and others reviewed abatement bids. Between May and June 2015, the group drafted a request for proposals to demolish the ten buildings, without mentioning the presence of asbestos. After the Town published this request, it awarded a $262,000 demolition contract to the lowest bidder, a contractor not qualified to properly handle and remove asbestos. 

During the week of August 11, 2015, the contractor and his crew demolished the buildings using a backhoe, releasing asbestos to the open air. After concerned citizens notified local officials, they suspended the operation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation. 

United States v. Jose Jesus Guillen, No. 3:20-CR-03169 (S.D. Calif.), ECS Trial Attorney Stephen DaPonte and AUSA Melanie Pierson

On February 17, 2021, Jose Jesus Guillen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle pesticides into the United States (18 U.S.C. § 371.) Sentencing is scheduled for May 7, 2021. 

Authorities apprehended Guillen in September 2020, as he attempted to enter the United States from Mexico with 24 bottles of “Metaldane 600,” a Mexican pesticide.

Those involved in clandestine marijuana grows use illegal pesticides to cultivate unregulated marijuana on both public and private land in the United States.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. 

United States v. James S. Marshall, No. 6:20-CR-006003 (W.D.N.Y), AUSA Aaron Mango

On February 9, 2021, James S. Marshall pleaded guilty to negligent endangerment under the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 7412, 7413(c)(1), (c)(4)). Sentencing is scheduled for May 10, 2021.

Marshall worked as a maintenance supervisor with the Finger Lakes Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). As part of his duties, Marshall controlled and supervised facilities under renovation or slated for demolition.

In October 2014, the defendant requested asbestos testing at the Hillcrest Building, owned by the OPWDD. Marshall directed an asbestos inspector to take four samples from just two locations within the 300,000 square-foot building. The results of the four samples came back negative for asbestos. In November 2014, the OPWDD began soliciting bids to cleanout the building based upon these sample results. In December 2014, a third-party contractor won the bid and completed the work in April 2015. OPWDD received notification from Marshall of the successful cleanout shortly thereafter. 

Building inspectors subsequently located regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM) throughout the building. In addition to failing to make sure workers adequately wetted the RACM and sealed it in leak-tight containers, Marshall placed others in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury during the cleanout. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation, with assistance from the New York State Department of Labor Asbestos Control Bureau.

United States v. Thomas Yoon et al., No. 3:19-CR-00107 (D. Alaska), AUSA Charisse Arce and RCEC Karla Perrin

Asbestos waste in boiler room

On February 25, 2021, a court sentenced Tae Ryung Yoon, aka Thomas Yoon, Yoo Jin Management Company, Ltd., and Mush Inn Corporation for violating the Clean Air Act (CAA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 7413(c)(1),(c)(4)). The companies will complete three-year terms’ of probation and are jointly and severally responsible for paying a $35,000 fine and $30,000 in restitution. The government is seeking an additional $27,080 in restitution for medical monitoring costs of the victims exposed to asbestos. This hearing is scheduled for March 15, 2021. Yoon will complete a two-year term of probation and perform 100 hours of community service.

Mush Inn and Yoo Jin Management jointly owned the Northern Lights shopping center. They contracted with Yoon in November 2014 to oversee an unlicensed contractor’s renovation of a boiler room containing asbestos insulation. The defendants knew about the presence of asbestos in the shopping center from previous renovations conducted by shopping center tenants. Despite this knowledge, they failed to submit any notification to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prior to commencing the project in January 2015. The contractor also failed to comply with the work practice standards as required by the CAA’s National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for asbestos. The defendants’ actions exposed at least four workers to asbestos-containing material.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation.

United States v. Kenneth R. Britt, Jr., et al., No. 5:20CR-00007 (S.D. Miss.), Acting U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca

On February 24, 2021, a court sentenced four hunters for illegally killing wild turkeys in 2017 and 2018.

Kenneth R. Britt, Jr., Tony Grant Smith, Barney Leon Bairfield, III, and Dustin Corey Treadway pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act for illegally killing wild turkeys in Kansas and Nebraska, travelling back to Mississippi with trophy spurs and beards. They took more than 25 turkeys without the required hunting licenses and in excess of the “two per person per season” limit, in violation of state law. Britt, Smith and Bairfield pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Lacey Act and Treadway pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. § 371; 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(A)).

Britt will pay a $25,000 fine and complete a five-year term of probation. Smith will pay a $15,000 fine and complete a four-year term of probation. Treadway will pay a $5,000 fine and complete a two-year term of probation. Bairfield will pay a $3,000 fine and complete a two-year term of probation. All are banned from hunting while under supervision.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks conducted the investigation.  

United States v. Aristides Sanchez, No. 1:17-CR -00488 (D. P. R.), ECS Trial Attorney Christopher Hale and AUSA Carmen Marquez

On February 22, 2021, a court sentenced Aristides Sanchez to one year and one day incarceration, followed by two years’ supervised release. Sanchez also will perform 120 community service and is banned from collecting marine life while under supervision. Sanchez pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act for trafficking in and mislabeling marine wildlife (16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(2)(A), 3373(d)(1)(B)).

The defendant owned a saltwater aquarium business called Wonders of the Reef Aquarium. A large part  of the business  was  devoted to the sale of native  Puerto Rican marine species  that  are popular in the saltwater aquarium  trade. Sanchez  sent live specimens  to customers  in the mainland United States  and foreign  countries  by  commercial courier services. One  of the most  popular items  that  Sanchez  sent was an organism from the genus Ricordea. These animals are known as “rics,” “polyps,” or “mushrooms” in the aquarium industry. Ricordea form part of the reef structure and spend their adult lives fastened in place to the reef. These animals are colorful in natural light and appear to glow under the UV lights that are typically used in high-end saltwater aquariums.

Sanchez sent approximately 130 illegal shipments of coral from Puerto Rico to other countries and the mainland United States between January 2013 and March 2016. The retail value of these shipments was between $800,000 and $1,200,000.

Juan Pablo Castro Torres and Luis Joel Vargas-Martell pleaded guilty in related cases.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted the investigation.

United States v. Russell McKeehan, No. 4:20-CR-00072 (S.D. Iowa), AUSA Debra Scorpiniti

On February 18, 2021, a court sentenced Russell McKeehan to complete a four-year term of probation, to include six months’ confinement. McKeehan pleaded guilty to violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act for storing hazardous waste without a permit (42 U.S.C. § 6928(d)(2)). 

Beginning in 2009, McKeehan, doing business as Chrome Reflections, operated a chrome and metal plating and polishing business in Des Moines, Iowa. After moving to another plant in March 2013, the company continued to store more than 3,800 kilograms of hazardous waste at the former facility for approximately four years, without a permit. These wastes tested positively for toxicity, reactivity, and corrosivity characteristics. 

The 13-month site clean up cost close to home to doing a Tanks holding hazardous waste $80,000. The Court ordered McKeehan to pay restitution in the amount of $49,926 toward the cleanup costs, per an agreement with the property owner who agreed to cover $30,000 himself.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation. 

United States v. Gary Nale, No. 1:20-CR-00097 (S.D. Ohio), ECS Trial Attorney Rich Powers and AUSA Laura Clemmens

On February 17, 2021, a court sentenced Gary Nale to pay a $2,500 fine and complete a three-year term of probation for illegal fishing. During probation, Nale is prohibited from fishing in the Ohio River.

Between November 2012 and April 2019, Nale worked as a deckhand for a commercial fisherman (JS). JS made a living by catching American paddlefish from the Ohio River and selling the harvested roe. On at least three separate occasions, JS and Nale used gill nets to unlawfully take paddlefish from waters of the Ohio River that were within the Ohio state boundary. Ohio state authorities have prohibited the use of commercial gill fishing nets within its waters since 1983. Nale pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act for trafficking in illegally harvested paddlefish (16.U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(2)(A), 3373(d)(2)).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources conducted the investigation. “Operation Charlie” targeted commercial fishermen illegally harvesting paddlefish from the Ohio River.

United States v. Sherman Jude, et al., No. 7:20-CR-00009 (E.D. Ky.), AUSA Emily Greenfield

On February 17, 2021, a court sentenced Sherman Jude and Jonathon Jude for illegally purchasing ginseng and failing to record these purchases in violation of the Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(2)(B), 3373(d)(1)(B)). Sherman Jude will pay a $30,000 fine and complete a two-year term of probation. Johnathan Jude will pay a $1,500 fine and complete a one-year term of probation.

Sherman Jude was a licensed dealer of wild American ginseng who worked with his son, Jonathon. Between 2016 and 2019, the Judes falsified Kentucky Ginseng Purchase Forms for multiple purchases of wild ginseng, failed to keep records for all purchases, bought ginseng harvested out of season, and purchased ginseng from out of state that had not been properly certified. Sherman Jude also purchased 12.5 pounds of ginseng harvested out of season.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources conducted the investigation.

United States v. Huber Ortiz-Herrera, No. 3:20-CR-02024 (S.D. Calif.), ECS Trial Attorney Stephen DaPonte and AUSA Melanie Pierson

On February 16, 2020, a court sentenced Huber Ortiz-Herrera to one day timeserved and ordered him to pay $2,500 in restitution, after pleading guilty to smuggling (18 U.S.C. § 545.) Authorities apprehended Ortiz-Herrera in April 2020, as he attempted to smuggle illegal Mexican pesticides and fertilizers into the United States. Ortiz-Herrera possessed five 1-liter bottles of "Furadan" and twelve 1-liter bottles of "Bayfolan." Those involved in clandestine marijuana grows use illegal pesticides to cultivate unregulated marijuana on both public and private land in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. 

United States v. Yvette Saravia, No. 3:20-CR-02427 (S.D. Calif.), ECS Trial Attorney Stephen DaPonte and AUSA Melanie Pierson

On February 16, 2021, a court sentenced Yvette Saravia to one day time-served and ordered her to pay $2,500 in restitution, after pleading guilty to smuggling (18 U.S.C. § 545.) Authorities apprehended Saravia in May 2020, as she attempted to smuggle illegal Mexican pesticides into the United States. Saravia possessed seven 960-mililiter bottles of "Biofos 600,” five 1-liter bottles of "Rotamik,” three 1-liter bottles of "Tokat 240,” three 1liter bottles of "AK-20,” one 1-liter bottle of “Acarzole,” and one 960-mililiter bottle of "Tetrasan.” Those involved in clandestine marijuana grows use illegal pesticides to cultivate unregulated marijuana on both public and private land in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. 

United States v. Manuel Macias Mendoza et al., No. 3:20-CR-02432 (S. D. Calif.), ECS Trial Attorney Stephen DaPonte and AUSA Melanie Pierson

On February 9, 2021, a court sentenced Manual Macias Mendoza to one day timeserved and ordered him to pay $1,200 in restitution. In March 2020, authorities apprehended Mendoza and co-defendant Maria Elena Macias as they attempted to smuggle Mexican pesticides (five one-liter bottles of “Metaldane 600”) into the United States from Mexico. A court sentenced Macias on December 8, 2020, to complete a six-month term of probation. Both defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy (18 U.S.C. § 371.) Those involved in clandestine marijuana grows use illegal pesticides to cultivate unregulated marijuana on both public and private land in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. 

United States v. Jude Amadike, No. 2:19-mj-03556 (D.N.J.), AUSA Jason Garelick

On February 9, 2021, a court sentenced Jude Amadike to complete a one-month term of probation and forfeit more than 1,700 bottles of an unregistered pesticide. Amadike pleaded guilty to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act for importing Sniper DDVP, from Nigeria and selling it to individuals across the United States (7 U.S.C. §§ 136j(a)(l)(A), 136l(b)(1)(B)).

In March 2018, law enforcement began investigating sales of Sniper DDVP on Amazon and eBay. In April 2018, Amazon prohibited its sale. Following Amazon’s ban, Amadike turned to other websites to sell the product. After executing a search warrant at the defendant’s home in November 2018, agents seized 18 cases (more than 1,700 bottles) of the pesticide. Further testing confirmed the presence of diclorvos or DDVP, a regulated pesticide. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation, with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

United States v. Bruce W. Bivins, et al., No. 9:20-CR-80091 (S.D. Fla.), AUSA John McMillan and former AUSA Lauren Jorgensen

On February 9, 2021, a court sentenced Bruce W. Bivins to seven months’ incarceration, followed by one year of supervised release. Bivins pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act for poaching close to 100 sea turtle eggs (16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(1), 3373(d)(1)(B)). Bivins and co-defendant Carl L. Cobb previously served jail time for a similar offense. Cobb was sentenced to nine months’ incarceration on March 9, 2021, after pleading guilty to similar charges.

On May 24, 2020, Cobb took Bivins to Singer Island Beach, where Bivins located a sea turtle nest. Bivins removed 93 eggs and called Cobb to pick him up. Local authorities were familiar with Cobb and his vehicle from previous cases. On the night of the incident, they observed him traveling toward the beach. Wildlife agents observed Bivins taking the eggs and Cobb returning to pick him up. 

After officers stopped the truck, they found Cobb in the driver’s seat, Bivins in the passenger’s seat, and 93 sand-dusted turtle eggs inside a black bag in the bed of the truck. Marine biologists relocated the recovered eggs, but none of them hatched. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission conducted the investigation.

United States v. Adrian D. Wood, No. 1:19-CR-00168 (D. Ore.), AUSA Adam Delph

On February 5, 2021, a court sentenced Adrian D. Wood to complete a five-year term of probation, to include six months’ community confinement, for poaching in Crater Lake National Park. Wood will pay $42,500 in restitution to the National Park Service and forfeit hunting equipment. The court restricted him from hunting during the term of probation, but banned Wood for life from entering the Park. Wood pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act for illegally killing a bull elk in September 2016 (16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a) (1), 3373(d)1)). 

Authorities began investigating Wood’s hunting activities in July 2014, after hunters informed them of his poaching in the Park. The evidence included texts and photos from Wood bragging about his kills. The investigation continued through October 2016, when authorities executed a search warrant at Wood’s residence. They seized multiple firearms, assorted ammunition, and several wildlife specimens. They also acquired GPS data confirming that the majority of Wood’s hunting excursions (between 2011 and 2016) occurred within the Park boundaries.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, the National Park Service, and the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division conducted the investigation.

United States v. Ryan J. Gibbs, No. 2:20-CR-00097 (S.D. Ohio), SAUSA Mike Marous and ECS Trial Attorney Adam Cullman

On February 3, 2021, a court sentenced Ryan J. Gibbs to pay a $100,000 fine, complete a one-year term of probation, and perform 80 hours of community service. Gibbs also will surrender a variety of wildlife items. Gibbs pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act for purchasing a tiger skin rug (16 U.S.C. §§ 1538(a)(1)(E), 1540 (b)(1)). 

In August 2018, Gibb contacted an individual in the United Kingdom about buying a tiger skin rug. The man told Gibbs he could not legally ship tiger skins to the United States, but knew someone in Minnesota who sold them

Through a series of emails and calls, Gibbs discussed with this person (an undercover Fish and Wildlife Service agent) that he wanted to purchase a tiger skin and a mounted flamingo. Gibbs and the agent discussed the illegality of buying and selling tiger parts across state lines. In December 2018, Gibbs bought three mounted birds (a tufted puffin, a horned puffin, and a flamingo) for a total of $1,200, from the agent.

Over the next several months, Gibbs and the agent communicated intermittently about the tiger skin. In August 2019, they met again, where Gibbs paid the agent $3,000 for the skin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the investigation.

Environmental Crimes Bulletin

Updated December 5, 2023