Owners of Morgan City firm charged in wastewater case (updated)
By PRESTON GILL
A Morgan City corporation and its two local owners have been accused of paying kickbacks in exchange for illegally using an Assumption Parish injection well in Belle River to dispose of more than 380,000 gallons of industrial wastewater.
Raymond Marcel Jr., 60, of Berwick, and Cyril D. Robicheaux, 53, of Morgan City, were charged Monday by U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act. They are the owners and operators of RAM, a wastewater brokerage firm, which has also been charged.
Marcel said the company is a brokerage with no employees. He had no further comments.
The defendants are accused of having conspired with themselves and others to illegally discharge industrial wastewater at locations in Belle River and Baton Rouge, Cazayoux stated in a news release. They are also charged with obstructing the enforcement of laws through kickbacks, the creation and use of false documents and other fraudulent means, he stated.
Last month, Michael J. Vaughn of Addis pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James Brady to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to the charge. Vaughn’s sentencing is pending.
Marcel and Robicheaux paid more than $22,000 in kickbacks during 2011 and 2012 to Vaughn, the operations manager of FAS Environmental Services, a transportation and disposal company, to illegally discharge industrial wastewater at locations into an FAS injection well at Belle River, according to Cazayoux.
“They put stuff in that well that was far from hazardous,” attorney C. Frank Holthaus said. He represents the firm and its owners. “It was truck wash, stuff like that.”
Holthaus said all three of his clients have agreed to plead guilty in the case.
“We are not fighting this,” said Holthaus. “My clients have cooperated with the government from the beginning and have reached a plea agreement.”
According to Cazayoux, the pair face up to five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a term of supervised release following imprisonment up to three years, and restitution to any victims, if convicted, and RAM faces a fine up to $250,000, a term of probation up to five years, and an order of restitution to any victims.
In announcing the charges, Cazayoux said the defendants and their fellow conspirators allegedly created and used false documents, including manifests and work orders, in addition to submitting false reports to regulators in Baton Rouge. These were designed to conceal the alleged scheme from federal and state government officials, as well as the defendant corporation’s unsuspecting clients.
Cazayoux said FAS ownership was unaware of the actions involving the company’s injection well and that FAS has cooperated fully throughout the investigation.
The charges also allege that, in September 2012, the defendants and others illegally disposed of industrial wastewater at a site in Baton Rouge and concealed the dumping through the creation and use of false documents. According to the charges, the defendants undertook that activity with the owner of the Baton Rouge site and further schemed with the site owner to lie to investigators regarding the disposals.
The charges are in connection with an ongoing federal and state investigation into corruption and fraud surrounding federal environmental laws, Cazayoux stated. The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney, the criminal investigation divisions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, he stated.
Reporting from The Associated Press contributed to this report.