A.G. Schneiderman And DEC Commissioner Seggos Announce Convictions Of St. Lawrence County Auto Dealership And Employee For Burial Of Hazardous Waste

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

February 15, 2017

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Mahoney’s Auto Mall And Employee Andrew Fuller Plead Guilty To Environmental Law Crimes; Paid $187K In Fines

Schneiderman: Those Who Pollute Our Environment Will Be Brought To Justice

CANTON – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the conviction of Mahoney’s Auto Mall, Inc. (“Mahoney’s”) and its employee, Andrew Fuller, for violations of the Environmental Conservation Law (“ECL”) related to burying more than 140 gallons of hazardous substances on Mahoney’s property. 

Today, in St. Lawrence County Court before the Honorable Derek P. Champagne, Mahoney’s, a used car dealership and automobile repair shop located at 7513 U.S. Route 11 in the Town of Potsdam, pleaded guilty to one count of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Third Degree, a Class E felony, in violation of ECL §71-2712(4). Fuller, 33, of Madrid, pleaded guilty to one count of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree, a Class A misdemeanor, in violation of ECL §71-2711(3).

“When business owners fail to properly dispose of hazardous material, it jeopardizes the health of New Yorkers and our natural resources,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will continue to ensure that those who disregard our environmental laws are brought to justice.” 

Today’s convictions are the result of an investigation conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”). 

"The long list of egregious waste violations in this case is alarming and shows blatant disregard for the laws that are in place to protect our environment and the public’s health and safety,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “In some instances, these chemicals can be deadly, and I applaud the work of our Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) and the Attorney General’s office in bringing this case to fruition.”

According to court filings and statements made by the prosecutor, DEC’s investigation revealed that in June 2014, Fuller buried drums of used oil, containers of used oil filters, and tires on Mahoney’s property.  On July 21, 2014, DEC police and regulators executed a search warrant which authorized them to excavate the buried waste at Mahoney’s.  During the excavation, DEC investigators discovered four 55-gallon drums containing approximately 142 gallons of liquid, several containers of used oil filters, and approximately 20 tires.  Subsequent laboratory analysis showed that liquid samples from each of the four drums contained the hazardous substances benzene at levels in excess of .5 milligrams per liter.  In addition to the benzene, the analysis detected the presence of the hazardous substances toluene, ethyl-benzene, and xylene.  Releases of hazardous substances that may enter the environment are illegal.

Additionally, adjacent to the excavated waste area, DEC investigators found an open, unprotected pile of solid waste which measured 33 feet in width by 25 feet in length.  The pile of solid waste contained construction and demolition debris, roofing material, household trash, clothing, furniture and bedding.  The disposal of solid waste at the site constitutes the operation of a solid waste management facility. The DEC subjects solid waste management facilities to strict operational and closure requirements to avoid potential adverse impacts to public health and the environment, and it is illegal to construct or operate such a facility without first obtaining a permit from the DEC.  According to DEC records, Mahoney’s neither applied for nor received the necessary permit.

Inside the auto shop, DEC investigators also discovered a concrete channel dug into the floor which transported spilled automotive fluids into a pit. Once in the pit, the spilled fluids were discharged onto the ground outside the auto shop through a pump attached to a garden hose.  DEC investigators collected a soil sample from the area onto which the garden hose discharged the automotive fluids.  Laboratory testing revealed that this soil was contaminated with petroleum.  DEC officials also discovered petroleum-contaminated Speedy Dry which had been disposed of outside on the ground adjacent to the auto shop.

In December 2016, a St. Lawrence County Grand Jury charged Mahoney’s and Fuller, in a 13-count indictment, with violations of the ECL. The indictment charged both Mahoney’s and Fuller with one count of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Third Degree and eight counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree for crimes pertaining to the burial of the hazardous material.  Mahoney’s was also charged with two additional counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree (for the release of automotive fluids through the garden hose and the disposal of petroleum-contaminated Speedy Dry) and one count of violating ECL §71-2703(2)(b)(i), a Class B misdemeanor (for operating an unpermitted solid waste management facility).  

Mahoney’s paid $150,000 in fines and $7,449.49 in restitution to the DEC for reimbursement of costs for excavation and laboratory testing, and was sentenced to an unconditional discharge. Fuller paid a $37,500 fine and is scheduled to be sentenced to three years’ probation on April 10, 2017. 

The Attorney General thanks the DEC for their assistance in this investigation, specifically Capt. Harold Barber, Lt. Jim Boylan, then Lt. Mark Malone, Investigator Mike Dangler, Investigator Fran D’Angelo, Environmental Conservation Officer Troy Basford, and the DEC Sampling Team supervised by Lt. Karen Przyklek, Retired Lt. David Clarke and Capt. Todd Richards.

Also assisting in the investigation was Investigator Samuel Scotellaro of the New York State Office of the Attorney General and Deputy Chief Investigator Antoine Karam.  The Attorney General’s Investigations Division is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Tarkowski, with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Hugh McLean, both of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Acting Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton. 

If you witness an environmental crime, contact the NYSDEC 24-hour Poacher and Polluter hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).