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A Longview septic tank pumping business and its owner were sentenced today for multiple felony criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. RAY CALDWELL, 60, and his company, ALL-OUT SEWER AND DRAIN SERVICE, INC., were found guilty in December 2013, following a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle. CALDWELL was sentenced to 27 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 for twenty-five counts of violating the Clean Water Act, six counts of mail fraud, and two counts of making false statements. The company shares in the $250,000 fine and will be on probation for three years. In May, Judge Settle will determine the amount of restitution owed by CALDWELL and the company. At the sentencing hearing Judge Settle said, “You saw an opportunity to essentially deprive public entities of money they were entitled to receive…. It’s very important to communicate to the community that if you engage in fraud on local government, you will realize consequences.”
“This defendant illegally dumped more than two million gallons of waste and pollutants into the sewer system,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “The company and its owner stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in public services and then embarked on an extended campaign of deceit to conceal the scheme. The crimes damaged the honest rate payers who dutifully paid for the services they used.”
According to records filed in the case, the defendants’ scheme to defraud the City of Longview, Cowlitz County, and the Three Rivers Regional Wastewater Authority went on for more than ten years. ALL-OUT was engaged in the business of pumping, hauling, and disposing of septic tank waste, grease trap waste, and industrial wastewater. Federal, state, and local regulations require that all trucked and hauled wastes of the type handled by ALL OUT be discharged to approve treatment facilities. It was ALL OUT’s practice to transport the waste to its facility in Longview where it was minimally treated and stored in a 10,000 gallon storage tank. While some of the tank contents were appropriately trucked to approved treatment facilities, a majority of the commingled waste was routinely dumped down an unauthorized sewer port located on the ALL OUT facility.
Based on video surveillance footage seized by law enforcement authorities, CALDWELL and his business partner, Randy Dingus, undertook the illegal discharges in the early morning hours, under the cover of darkness, to avoid being detected by passersby or unsuspecting employees. When a records review conducted by the City of Longview in 2010 threatened to expose the scheme, the defendants began submitting false documents underreporting the true volume of trucked and hauled waste. This deception worked until August 2012 when law enforcement surveillance activities prompted by citizen complaints revealed the early morning dumping.
On August 17, 2012, EPA criminal agents executed a search warrant at the ALL OUT facility and seized video footage from the company’s surveillance system. The footage depicted twenty-four separate illegal dumping incidents over a six week period in July and August of 2012. EPA criminal agents returned to the ALL OUT facility in the early morning of December 18, 2012 after receiving reports that the illegal dumping was still occurring. The agents arrested CALDWELL after observing him using large flexible hoses to dump waste from the storage tank directly into the sewer port.
CALDWELL was convicted of illegally dumping waste on each of the days captured on the video footage as well as the December 18, 2012 dumping event. CALDWELL was also convicted of using the mail system to further his scheme of defrauding the public utilities. Finally, CALDWELL was convicted for making false statements in a mandated user survey seeking information regarding ALL OUT’s discharges to the sewer system, and for lying to EPA agents when confronted in August 2012.
CALDWELL’s business partner, Randy Dingus, 54, had previously pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act for his participation in the illegal dumping scheme. He was sentenced in January 2014 to 30 days in prison, two months of home detention, one year of supervised release, 40 hours of community service, and a $15,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Cowlitz County, the City of Longview, and the Three Rivers Regional Wastewater Authority. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jim Oesterle and Lawrence Lincoln.