New York Cuffs & Collars – April 6th, 2012
Northern District highlights
On Jan. 17, ECO Eric Templeton completed a solid waste complaint investigation in the town of Nanticoke. The investigation began back in March of 2011 when Chris Warner with DEC’s spills unit referred an illegal dumping of “non-exempt” construction and demolition material on a property along Leekville Road. With the assistance of Tom Gragg with DEC’s air quality unit, in addition to the violations of the unlawful disposal of solid waste and operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, the property owner was also failing to comply with vehicle dismantling requirements and was storing in excess of 1,000 tires without a permit. As a result of the DEC investigation the property owner conducted a 10-month cleanup at the site, which included the proper disposal of the non-exempt solid waste and automotive waste fluids, the on-site crushing of 74 vehicles, and the proper disposal of approximately 14,500 tires.
Commercial vehicle spill
On Jan. 12, ECO Mark Wojtkowiak responded to route I-86 in the town of Carrollton for a spill of unknown regulated waste. The New York State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit was already on scene and had reported that a 10-wheeled dump truck was traveling eastbound on I-86 in route from Ellicottville to Hyland Landfill in Angelica when it lost a portion of its load. The load appeared to be soil containing unknown contaminants. They also reported that a second 10-wheeled dump truck carrying the same material was also on scene and waiting the DEC’s arrival. Upon arrival, Wojtkowiak found the vehicles were transporting petroleum-contaminated soil which, in this case, was non-hazardous, but regulated solid waste. Additional investigation revealed the truck that caused the spill was not an authorized vehicle under the company’s DEC waste transport permit. Furthermore, the state police commercial vehicle enforcement unit determined that both trucks were overweight by 54 percent and 48 percent, respectively. State police attributed the weight of the load to cause the tailgate of the first dump truck to fail, thereby opening and spilling several tons of contaminated soil along the eastbound lanes and shoulder. The transport company worked with DEC spills responders in cleaning up the material. The operator of the first truck was charged with violating a condition of his DEC permit by transporting in an unauthorized vehicle, failing to contain regulated waste during transport, and failing to comply with state or federal laws by being 54 percent overweight. The owner/operator of the second truck that merely stopped to assist his stranded employee was charged with transporting solid waste uncovered and failing to comply with state or federal laws by being 48 percent overweight. All five charges were pending in Carrollton town court. State police and the state Department of Transportation had one lane of I-86 eastbound closed for several hours until the spill could be cleaned up and the truck gate repaired.
On Jan. 10, ECOs Robert Higgins and Steve Shaw patrolled to the town of Clifton Park to investigate information received regarding an antlered deer possibly shot on an apple orchard’s nuisance permit. The complainant was an avid hunter who had been hunting a large buck during the big-game hunting season and had several pictures of him on his trail camera. The officers patrolled to Lindsey Orchard on Sugarhill Road and interviewed the caretaker of the property and a co-worker. The orchard did possess a valid nuisance permit from the DEC to take seven antlerless deer, but it was immediately apparent from looking at the paperwork that one deer had not been accounted for, the log had not been filled out, and the permit had not been signed. It was then confirmed the caretaker had shot a large 8-point buck with a 22-inch spread at night with a spotlight. Further, it was determined the buck had been taken off the apple orchard property and behind the caretaker’s residence in a cornfield. The caretaker was issued tickets for taking big game out of season, taking deer with the aid of an artificial light and for violating the terms and conditions of his permit. Finally, the buck’s trophy rack was seized as evidence, the remaining nuisance permits were confiscated, and the permit was terminated. The officers met the complainant and, unfortunately, the antlers were matched to his trail camera pictures. All charges were pending in the town of Clifton Park Court.
Otter run down
(St. Lawrence County)
On Jan. 28, ECO Mike Sherry received a complaint that someone had just run over an otter on the ice on Black Lake. The caller stated they observed an otter out on the ice in front of Chapman’s store. They stated the otter came out from the shoreline and was running and sliding on the ice. Several ice fishermen were on the ice and were watching the otter running and sliding. They observed a group of ice fishermen about a half a mile from shore and saw one of the anglers get on his four-wheeler. The individual proceeded to drive over to the otter and then ran it over several times, killing it. Sherry responded to the complaint and walked out to the subjects and asked who ran over the otter. David Amyot, of Hammond, stated that he ran over the otter and that the otter was in a bag on top of his ice shack. Sherry secured the otter as evidence. Amyot stated that he thought it was legal to run over the otter since the trapping season was open and he had a trapping license. Sherry explained that it was not legal to run over an otter or any wildlife to harvest it. He issued tickets for illegally taking protected wildlife and for using the aid of a motor vehicle to take game.
No mining permit
An investigation was initiated when ECO Stanley Winnick III and Tom Gragg of the DEC’s air division were on patrol to inspect dust issues in a local gravel pit in the town of Barton. As the two were patrolling to the complaint, they noticed a large front-end loader cross State Route 17C and drive onto an auto auction property. Winnick drove to a gravel pit near the location where the loader was believed to have been working and observed an unpermitted mine in operation. Not long after the patrol car was in the pit and the officer was beginning his investigation, the owner of the gravel pit, who is also the owner of the auto auction, arrived on scene. Winnick asked to see a mining permit for the site and found that there was no permit. Tom Gragg contacted DEC minerals personnel and informed them that there were several violations on the site. Winnick then informed the owner that all work in the pit must be stopped until a permit could be obtained. On Jan. 6, after all the proper paperwork was completed with the minerals program, the auto auction company entered into a consent order with the state which included a payable penalty of $25,000 and a suspended penalty of $75,000, as a guarantee of compliance with the terms of the order.
On Jan. 25, ECO Mark Malone was on patrol when he heard a radio transmission from the Jefferson County 911 center about a person who had just stolen electronics from one of the local Walmart Supercenter. Upon hearing the call and then listening to the locations of the responding units, Malone was the closest unit to the location of the larceny. As Malone headed toward the store, dispatch stated that the thief had left the store on foot and was walking down Route 11 in the town of Leray. A moment later, dispatch relayed to the responding units that a concerned citizen who witnessed the larceny was going after the thief and attempting to make him return to the store. Upon hearing this transmission, Malone knew that this kind of assistance by the citizen would not be well-received by the fleeing thief, so Malone stepped up his response. In approaching the store, Malone witnessed that the citizen and the thief were getting into a physical altercation on the lawn in front of the store. Malone positioned his patrol vehicle off the side of the highway and rapidly approached the two subjects. After determining which individual was the thief, Malone quickly handcuffed the individual and took him into custody. Within a few minutes, three other units responded to the scene and assisted with the arrest. The subject was turned over to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and was arrested for petit larceny. As it turns out, the thief stole numerous cell phone chargers and other small electronics.
Southern District highlights
‘Stung’ by bedbugs
On Jan. 18, ECO Brian Toth met with Cathy Ahlers of DEC’s pesticides unit in Somers to continue a sting operation begun the previous day. At a nearby house, environmental crimes investigators Robert McDermott and Cindy Harcher were acting as new renters with a potential bedbug problem. Various pesticide exterminators had appointments throughout the day to solve the problem. Before any spraying was done, the investigators would identify themselves and check the applicator’s ID card and registration. At this point, Ahlers and Toth would arrive to assist with the inspection and issue any summonses. Investigator Michael Occichone of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and Detective Robert Pavone of the Westchester County Police Department were also involved in the sting operation. Two summonses were issued for operating an unregistered pesticides business and failure to display decals on two sides of equipment. On Jan. 17, a total of 13 summonses were issued for pesticide violations.
On June 14, 2011, a homeowner returned from work and found his girlfriend dead. The 56-year-old female was found dead from a suspected African Black Mamba snake bite from the snake which was housed in the residence, along with 74 other snakes. Of those 75 snakes, 57 of them were venomous. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department received the 911 call and found the Black Mamba in its enclosure. They were accompanied by the DEC, ASPCA and a snake expert who helped to identify the snakes. The following day, DEC requested the assistance of the Bronx Zoo, whose representatives arrived and removed the 57 venomous snakes from the residence. The snakes will be housed at the zoo until there is a final disposition in the case. On Jan. 23, the homeowner pleaded guilty in Patterson town court to 10 counts of possessing venomous snakes and paid a $2,500 fine. He also forfeited the 57 snakes and their enclosures, which were removed from his home in June of 2011. He paid $3,250 after surcharges were assessed by the court. His snake collection was valued at over $200,000 according to experts.