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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Kansas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Indictment: Two Kansas Companies At Fault for Toxic Cloud Over Atchison in 2016

Web page, phone line, email address set up for victims

TOPEKA, KAN. – Two Kansas companies were indicted today on federal charges of safety violations that caused a greenish-yellow toxic chlorine gas cloud to form over the city of Atchison in October 2016, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said. A web page, a phone line and an email address have been set up for victims to provide and receive information on the case.

The indictment alleges more than 140 people sought medical attention after 4,000 gallons of sulfuric acid combined with 5,800 gallons of sodium hypochlorite to form a toxic cloud that covered the city for 45 minutes until emergency personnel arrived to turn off the flow.

Midwest Grain Products, Inc., of Atchison, Kan., and Harcros Chemicals, Inc., of Kansas City, Kan., are charged with Clean Air Act violations that put the public in danger.

The indictment alleges that on Oct. 21, 2016, a driver for Harcros pulled a truck into Midwest Grain’s facility in Atchison to deliver sulfuric acid. An operator for Midwest Grain helped the driver access the transfer equipment. When the driver mistakenly connected the sulfuric acid line to the sodium hypochlorite line, toxic gas began to form. The indictment alleges both men violated safety rules by failing to verify that the connection was correct and failing to monitor the transfer.

ictims can get more information on US v. Midwest Grain Products, Inc., by visiting https://www.justice.gov/usao-ks/victim-witness and filling out a victim questionnaire, leaving a message on a designated phone line at 913-551-6543 or emailing questions to usaks.victim.witness@usdoj.gov .

If convicted, the defendant companies face the following penalties:

 

  • Count one, violation of general duty clause: A fine up to $500,000.
  • Count two, knowingly releasing a hazardous pollutant: A fine up to $1 million.
  • Count three (alternate to count two), negligently releasing a hazardous pollutant: A fine up to $200,000.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Hathaway is prosecuting.

 

OTHER INDICTMENTS 

          Anderson Eduardo Seijas Chavez, 29, Miami, Fla., Angel A. Betancourt-Rodriguez, 23, Miami, Fla., and Carlos Alberto Campos-Rojas, 28, Summerfield, Fla., are charged with one count of conspiracy to create and use counterfeit credit and debit cards (count one). In addition, Chavez and Rojas are charged with one count of unlawfully possessing an ATM skimming device and a pinhole camera for the purpose of making counterfeit cards (count two) and one count of aggravated identity theft (count three). The crimes are alleged to have occurred in September and October 2018 in Johnson County, Kan.

If convicted, the face up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on count one, up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000 on count two and not less than two years (consecutive) and a fine up to $250,000 on count three.

The U.S. Secret Service investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Oakley is prosecuting.

 

 Chris Lewis II, 26, Kansas City, Kan., is charged with three counts of distributing crack cocaine (counts one through three), one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana (count four), one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking (count five) and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a fugitive from justice (count six). The crimes are alleged to have occurred in December 2018 and January 2019 in Wyandotte County, Kan.

Upon conviction, the crimes carry the following penalties:

  • Counts one through three: Up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million.
  •  Count four: Up to five years and a fine up to $250,000.
  •  Count five: Not less than five years and a fine up to $250,000.
  •   Count six: Up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000.

The FBI and the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Rask is prosecuting.

Ryan Hawley, 29, who is in custody, is charged with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The crime is alleged to have occurred Feb. 14, 2019, in Shawnee County, Kan.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison and fine up to $250,000. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Topeka Police Department investigated. The U.S. Marshals Service, and the Kansas Highway Patrol Assisted in his arrest. Assistant U.S. Attorney Skip Jacobs is prosecuting.

Maria Alonso-Espinoza, 29, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with one count of distributing methamphetamine. The crime is alleged to have occurred Feb. 26, 2019.

According to court documents, the Kansas Highway Patrol stopped Alonso-Espinoza’s vehicle on I-70 in Russell County and found 21 pounds of methamphetamine

If convicted, she faces a penalty of not less than 10 years and a fine up to $10 million. The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst is prosecuting.

 In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.

Topic(s): 
Environment
Component(s): 
Updated March 7, 2019