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Post date: April 3 2003

Brooklyn Junkyards Indicted For Environmental Crimes

Attorney General Spitzer, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin Crotty and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, today announced the indictment of four junkyards and 10 individuals for illegally dumping vehicle fluids in violation of state environmental law. The junkyards are located in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. These indictments are the latest step in a multi-agency environmental law enforcement effort in New York City that began with the indictment of 21 junkyards and 35 people in the Willetts Point area of Queens in April of 2001.

The businesses, most of their owners and a number of employees are charged with breaking state environmental laws by dumping motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid and other materials onto the ground and into sewers while dismantling cars to be recycled. All told, the businesses dumped thousands of gallons of waste fluids.

"These defendants disregarded the law and abused the environment," said Spitzer. "By using their properties and the streets around them as a toxic waste dump, they placed personal profit ahead of the law. My office, along with the NYPD and State DEC will continue our full court press to stop polluters."

This case involves the full spectrum of legal remedies. In addition to the criminal charges, Spitzer is filing civil lawsuits seeking an end to the illegal dumping of waste, forfeiture of the proceeds and equipment used in the crimes and an order that the firms and their owners implement interim pollution controls and pay for the clean-up of the sites. On Tuesday Kings County Supreme Court Justice Patricia M. DiMango issued orders permitting the seizure of the defendants' assets and dismantling equipment. The defendants were also arraigned today by Justice DiMango.

Under the Environmental Conservation Law, antifreeze, motor oil, brake and transmission fluids are hazardous substances that must either be recycled or disposed of at an approved facility.
The impact of environmental crimes like these can be felt for years," said NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. "These individuals caused significant damage to the city's sewer system while trying to make more profit on the cars they recycled. Now they will pay the price in prison. Our detectives in this case did a great job of investigating these criminals and ending their illegal operations."

State DEC Commissioner Erin M. Crotty said, "The multi-agency law enforcement investigation that resulted in today's indictment sends a clear signal that violating environmental laws is not tolerated in New York. I want to thank Attorney General Spitzer, Commissioner Kelly, the New York City police officers and the Environmental Conservation officers for their efforts in this investigation, which will ensure that the environment and public health are better protected."

The Attorney General's Office, along with the NYPD and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police, executed search warrants at the sites last October.

Based on the amount of fluids released, each of the defendants has been charged with Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the 3rd degree, a felony, which carries a maximum sentence four years in prison and fines of up to $100,000, as well as other crimes under the state's Environmental Conservation Law.

At one of the locations, investigators discovered that contaminated fluids were being discharged into the New York City sewer system, resulting in an additional felony charge with potential fines of up to $50,000 per day of violation.

The charges are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Spitzer commended the NYPD for its investigation of the case, and praised Organized Crime Control Chief William Morange; Inspector Howard Lawrence, Capt. Michael Byrne, Lt. Gene Borelli, Sgt. John Morris, and Dets. Joseph Wedge and Brian Hassett of the Auto Crimes Task Force; Sgt. George Gunn of the NYPD Asset Forfeiture Squad; and Capt. Terrance Revella, Lt. John Mattera and Investigator Lidio Rivera of the DEC's Division of Law Enforcement.

Assistant Attorneys General Julieta Lozano and Hugh McLean of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau are handling the criminal cases. Assistant Attorneys General Lemuel M. Srolovic and Andrew Gershon of the Environmental Protection Bureau, and Lynn Goodman, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of Forfeiture, are handling the civil cases, with assistance from Chief Scientist Michael Surgan.