POSTED: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 4:00pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 4:04pm
BATON ROUGE, LA — A wastewater brokerage firm and its two owners have been convicted in connection with a wide ranging and ongoing federal and state investigation into corruption and fraud surrounding federal environmental laws.
RAM Environmental Services, Inc., an entity incorporated in the State of Louisiana and doing business in Morgan City, Louisiana; Raymond Marcel, Jr., age 60, of Berwick, Louisiana; and Cyril D. Robicheaux, age 53, of Morgan City, Louisiana, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James J. Brady to Bills of Information charging them with a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.
As a result of their guilty pleas, Marcel and Robicheaux each face up to five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a term of supervised release following imprisonment up to three years, and restitution. As part of its plea agreement, RAM has agreed to be sentenced to a three year term of probation, a $50,000 fine, and restitution as determined by the Court.
During today’s hearings, the defendants admitted that, in 2011 and 2012, they conspired with themselves and others to illegally discharge industrial wastewater at locations in Belle River, Louisiana, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and to otherwise obstruct the enforcement of the federal environmental laws through kickbacks, the creation and use of false documents, and other fraudulent means.
With regard to the Baton Rouge conduct, the defendants admitted that, in September 2012, they and others caused the illegal disposal of industrial wastewater at a site in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and concealed such activity through the creation and use of false documents. The defendants admitted further that they undertook such fraudulent activity with the owner of the Baton Rouge site and further schemed with the site owner to lie to investigators regarding the disposals.
With regard to the Belle River conduct, the defendants admitted that, during 2011 and 2012, they paid over $22,000 in kickbacks to Michael J. Vaughn, the Operations Manager of FAS Environmental Services, a transportation and disposal company, in exchange for illegally using FAS’s injection well in Belle River to dispose of over 380,000 gallons of industrial wastewater. As part of the scheme, the defendants admitted that they and their fellow conspirators created and used over 100 false documents, including manifests and work orders, in addition to submitting false reports to regulators in Baton Rouge. Such false and fraudulent documents were designed to conceal the scheme from federal and state government officials, as well as the defendants’ unsuspecting clients.
U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated, “Today’s convictions mark a continuation of this office’s long track record of holding to account those who violate federal criminal environmental laws. Our area is blessed to have a robust and largely law-abiding industrial presence. Unfortunately, there are some who seek economic benefit by refusing to adhere to federal environmental and safety laws. The people of this district can be assured that this office, together with our federal, state, and local partners, will continue to aggressively pursue such violators.”
“One of EPA’s primary missions is to ensure that federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively,” said Ivan Vikin, Special Agent-in-Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Louisiana. “Violators who cause the submission of false information undermine the government’s efforts to protect the public and the environment. These illegal actions cannot and will not be tolerated. EPA and its partner agencies will vigorously pursue those who place the public at potential risk.”
“This case should serve notice that DEQ and its partners will continue to aggressively prosecute any company or individual who chooses to skirt state and federal regulations by avoiding the costs of handling, treating or disposing wastewater properly and legally,” said DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch. “DEQ is proud of the collaborative work undertaken by the investigators to halt these illegal practices and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Today’s charges were preceded by Vaughn, the former FAS Operations Manager, pleading guilty on May 29, 2013, to a Bill of Information charging him with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, making false statements within the jurisdiction of the federal government, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, and forfeiture. FAS ownership was unaware of the scheme involving the FAS injection well, which resulted in the misuse of FAS resources. FAS has cooperated fully throughout the investigation.
The sentencing dates for RAM, Marcel, Robicheaux, and Vaughn have not yet been set.