Brainerd Man Sentenced To Prison For Wildlife Trafficking, Trespassing After Removing The Head Of A Black Bear On The Red Lake Indian Reservation
Acting United States Attorney W. Anders Folk today announced the guilty pleas of ERIC JAY WECKWORTH-PINEDA, 25, and TANNER JOHN SIK, 21, to one count each of negligent discharge of a pollutant. WECKWORTH-PINEDA and SIK, who were charged by misdemeanor information on October 8, 2020, pleaded guilty before Senior Judge Michael J. Davis in U.S. District Court. Sentencing dates will be scheduled at a later time.
“The reckless behavior of these defendants led to significant damage to the Magellan Pipeline and subsequent release to the Yellow Medicine River,” said Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge of the EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Minnesota. “EPA will continue to hold individuals responsible for their environmental violations and the resulting harm.”
According to the defendants’ guilty pleas and documents filed with the court, on April 24, 2019, WECKWORTH-PINEDA and SIK traveled to the northwest side of Cottonwood Lake in Lyon County, Minnesota, to a bridge that spans a dam between Cottonwood Lake and a creek called Judicial Ditch 24, which flows into the Yellow Medicine River. WECKWORTH-PINEDA and SIK took guns to the bridge to shoot. SIK used a DPMS AR-15 rifle to fire multiple shots at a diesel fuel pipeline that runs perpendicular across Judicial Ditch 24. WECKWERTH-PINEDA used the scope on his own rifle to spot SIK’s shots. WECKWORTH-PINEDA and SIK admit that multiple shots hit the pipeline and one shot ruptured the pipe. Later that day, WECKWORTH-PINEDA and SIK returned to the area and saw that the pipeline was leaking and reported the leak to the authorities.
According to the defendants’ guilty pleas and documents filed with the court, the owner of the pipeline, Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P., claimed that the pipe’s rupture caused at least 3,906 gallons of diesel fuel to spill into Judicial Ditch 24 at a cost of approximately $1,122,617.64 to clean up the spill and repair the pipeline. The Environmental Protection Agency also expended $16,154.42 in assisting in the clean-up operation. WECKWORTH-PINEDA and SIK each face up to one year in prison and are liable for up to $1,138,772.06 in restitution.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General, the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, and the Lyon County Attorney’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily A. Polachek is prosecuting the case.
ERIC JAY WECKWORTH-PINEDA, 25
TANNER JOHN SIK, 21
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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600