WILMINGTON, NC (NEWS RELEASE) — United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that a Federal Grand Jury has returned a 19-Count Criminal Indictment charging BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PASS and P&W WASTE OIL SERVICES, INC., with offenses surrounding the unlawful transportation, storage and disposal of used oil contaminated with PCBs in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) and applicable regulations as well as offenses involving wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Setion 1957; and materially false statements, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001.
“We must be ever vigilant in the protection of our precious environment. This prosecution demonstrates that commitment,” Walker said.
“PCB-contaminated waste oil poses a significant and persistent threat to the community and the environment and must be disposed of legally,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Enforcement Program in Atlanta. “Those who disregard the law put the public and the environment at risk and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“This indictment shows that IRS-CI is united with the rest of the law enforcement community in our resolve to financially disrupt those who would profit from their wrong doing,” stated Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett, IRS Criminal Investigation.
According to the Indictment, PASS, 59, was President of P&W WASTE OIL SERVICES, INC, (P&W), a North Carolina corporation located in Leland, North Carolina, and established in 1993 for, among other things, collecting used oil for blending for industrial use. The business transported, processed and marketed on-specification used oil, which it received from other companies. On-specification used oil contains less than two parts per million (ppm) PCBs. In 2009, a contract employee of P&W removed transformer oil from five transformers located on a facility in Wallace, South Carolina, and transported the transformer oil and other waste to the P&W facility. The employee notified PASS of the transformer oil he brought back to the P&W facility. TCSA regulations mandate that if the date of manufacture and the type of fluid in a transformer is unknown, a person must assume the transformer is a PCB transformer, that is, a transformer that contains 500 parts per million or more of PCBs. Any PCB liquid containing more than 500 parts per million of PCBs must be disposed of by incineration. PASS did not notify the Environmental Protection Agency as required by applicable regulations.
It is further alleged that PASS devised a scheme for obtaining money and property by making materially false representations to induce customers to accept delivery of used-oil that contained more than 500 ppm of PCBs. The used-oil was certified by PASS that it contained less than two ppm PCBs. Between September 1, 2009, and September 15, 2009, PASS and P&W employees transported more than 130,000 gallons of used oil contaminated with more than 500 parts per million of PCBs to another facility in Wilmington, North Carolina.
PASS eventually had the transformer oil from the Wallace, South Carolina, facility analyzed, the results indicating the transformer oil contained 4925.55 ppm of PCBs
The Indictment also alleges that PASS purchased false safety training certificates for P&W employees which were presented during annual inspections.
For each count of the 14 counts relating to the transportation, storage and disposal of the contaminated oil, the maximum penalty is up to one year imprisonment. For the wire fraud charge, the maximum penalty is up to 20 years imprisonment; for money laundering, up to 10 years imprisonment; and for each count of making materially false statements, up to 5 years imprisonment. An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Enviromental Protection Agency – Criminal Investigation Division, the United States Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, and the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant United States Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is prosecuting the case.