2 plead in wastewater dumping

MORGAN CITY, La. -- Two local men pleaded guilty Monday in a Baton Rouge federal court to illegally disposing more than 380,000 gallons of industrial wastewater into an injection well in Belle River as well as illegally disposing wastewater at a Baton Rouge site, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Donald Cazayoux Jr.

Raymond Marcel Jr., 60, of Berwick and Cyril D. Robicheaux, 53, of Morgan City were charged last week along with their company, RAM Environmental Services Inc. with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The defendants entered their pleas before U.S. District Judge James J. Brady in connection with a wide ranging and ongoing federal and state investigation surrounding federal environmental laws, according to Cazayoux.

During Monday’s hearings, the defendants admitted they conspired in 2011 and 2012 with themselves and others to illegally discharge industrial wastewater at locations in Belle River and Baton Rouge and to obstruct the enforcement of the federal environmental laws through kickbacks, and false documents to conceal the scheme from federal and state government officials, according to Cazayoux.

As a result of their guilty pleas, both men each face up to five years imprisonment, $250,000 fine, a term of supervised release following imprisonment up to three years and restitution, according to the news release. 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.

“We are very remorseful for what we have done and we have cooperated fully during the investigation of this case,” Marcel said this morning.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Corey Amundson, the lead prosecutor in the case, said both defendants have “accepted responsibility and have been cooperating.”

The news release said the defendants admitted they paid more than $22,000 in kickbacks to Michael J. Vaughn, the operations manager of FAS Environmental Services, a transportation and disposal company, in exchange for illegal use of FAS’s well to dispose of the wastewater.

FAS ownership was unaware of the scheme involving the FAS injection well, Cazayoux said. Vaughn pleaded guilty on May 29 to multiple charges in the case, he said.

The news release said the defendants admitted they and others caused the illegal disposal of industrial wastewater in September 2012, at an unnamed site in Baton Rouge. Cazayoux said last week that as a result of the ongoing investigation another person is expected to be charged.

Department of Justice rules prohibit identifying uncharged individuals, Amundson said.

RAM arranges for transportation and disposal of industrial wastes for its industrial customers, Amundson said. The charges last week mentioned RAM clients in Patterson and Morgan City.

Cazayoux said the unnamed companies are not the subject of the investigation nor are they expected to be charged with a crime.

Amundson described the industrial wastewater from the Patterson client as consisting “of a brownish chemical and water mixture resulting from the processing of used oil.” The Morgan City client produced “a milky white chemical and water mixture resulting from the testing of devices designed to prevent blowouts during oil production.”

The wastewater was described last week as “far from hazardous,” by C. Frank Holthaus, who represents the firm and its owners.

Amundson said a pre-sentence investigation, which takes about three months, must be completed before a sentencing date can be scheduled.

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