New York Cuffs & Collars – May 18th, 2012
March 8 marked the successful conclusion of a three-year criminal investigation conducted by DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI). In Malone Town Court, Titus Mountain, Inc., pleaded guilty to intentionally discharging sewage into a tributary of the Little Salmon River in 2008 and was fined $10,000. Titus Mountain, Inc. also completed full remediation of the site including installation of a new septic system, complete removal of all illegally disposed of solid waste and compliance with petroleum bulk storage regulations. This closes the criminal case that was successfully prosecuted by Clinton County Chief Assistant District Attorney, Timothy Blatchley, who acted as special prosecutor for the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office. Zachary White, 47, of Malone was the general manager at Titus Mountain at the time of the criminal acts. White was initially investigated by the New York State Police for theft of electricity from National Grid. In that case, he pleaded guilty to grand larceny second degree, a felony, and was fined $3,300, paid $25,000 in restitution and was sentenced to perform community service. BECI handled the environmental aspects of the investigation and White was convicted of a felony for the unlawful discharge of sewage and paid a criminal fine of $15,000 and performed 500 hours of community service. White also pleaded guilty to three additional misdemeanor water quality violations.
Maybe this time
(St. Lawrence County)
On March 12, ECOs Troy Basford and Jonathan Ryan were patrolling and discussing several past cases they had written in the area. Basford inquired about a dumping case Ryan had handled in March 2011 on State Route 310. Ryan stated the case had been settled and the site cleaned. Meanwhile, the ECOs had patrolled to the location where this 2011 dumping had occurred. As they passed by, Ryan was heard to shout "Are you kidding me?!" and Basford chuckled. There, on the past dump site, was a dump truck load of construction and demolition material. A short conversation ensued, with Ryan handling the violation.
On March 17 , Ryan contacted the dumper and met him at the location. Ryan inquired what the issue was this time. The dumper replied “It’s the damn guys I got working for me. I told them not to dump here.” Apparently some other site not next to a busy highway would be OK. Ryan responded that this is the same story as last year. Ryan advised the suspect that this would probably not fly in court. Ryan issued the dumper two tickets – one for unlawful disposal of solid waste and operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.
On March 7, Investigator Chad Donk completed a “cause and origin” investigation into the Sept. 20, 2011, Cayuga County town of Aurelius rupture of the Buckeye Pipeline that caused a release of 25,000 gallons of gasoline onto the ground and adjacent area. The investigation determined that a farmer installing field tile using a tractor-mounted trencher neglected to raise the trencher as he approached the pipeline. The pipeline, which runs between Utica, Buffalo and Binghamton, is 10 inches in diameter and is placed approximately 30 inches below the ground.
The investigation determined that the pipeline was properly buried and located and that the farmer had contacted Buckeye Pipeline operators prior to beginning trenching. The tractor’s cab was even fitted with a GPS unit that kept the farmer apprised of the buried pipe’s location. Buckeye Pipeline responded immediately with spill contractors and the DEC Spills Unit, which were able to recover 11,000 gallons of the gasoline. The investigation was settled administratively with the farmer admitting negligence and he paid a $2,500 penalty for a water quality violation.
ATV operator surprised
On March 2, ECO Mark Wojtkowiak was investigating a solid waste complaint in the town of Scio. It had been reported that a farmer and animal processor had unlawfully dumped animal carcasses in the ditch across from his processing building. Wojtkowiak located three goat carcasses and one pig carcass, along with some household litter in the ditch. While documenting the scene and attempting to contact the responsible party from his unmarked patrol vehicle, a separate party approached Wojtkowiak on an ATV. When the operator stopped at the car door, Wojtkowiak observed a long gun on the machine. The operator stated he was going to check on some traps that he had set on the farm. Wojtkowiak found the firearm to be loaded. The operator was charged with possessing a loaded firearm on a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor, and was given warnings about ATV operation in New York state. The person responsible for the material in the ditches was located and was charged with causing litter to be deposited into a highway right-of-way, a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Both parties cleaned the ditches prior to the officer departing. On March 6, both parties appeared in Scio Court, where they pleaded guilty to their respective charges and were sentenced to pay fines and surcharges.
On March 21, ECO Brian Wade was called out by Livingston County sheriff’s deputies for subjects they were holding related to a reported drive-by shooting. After their initial investigation they determined the subjects did not do a drive-by but did shoot across the road repeatedly at a can they had propped on a fencepost. Neighbors down the street took cover as rounds passed by them during the incident. Wade completed his investigation and found two people to be responsible for shooting down the road and from or on a motor vehicle. One of the subjects was found to be from Texas and he made a comment about getting out of state as soon as possible, indicating he would not take care of the tickets. He was arraigned and immediately remanded to the Livingston County Jail. The other subject was ticketed the next day. Wade met the subjects in court seven days later. The subject who was remanded to the jail already had a lengthy criminal record and got time served. The other subject settled with a civil compromise.
Loon, grebe killed
In March, ECO Toni Dragotta received a complaint that a Chemung taxidermist was in possession of a loon and a grebe. She responded to the taxidermy shop and checked his records and freezers. He had no records of taking in a loon or a grebe and did not have either in his freezers. She then asked him, point blank, where is the loon and the grebe. The taxidermist looked at her with a stunned look and then turned and walked into the kitchen and removed the loon from the kitchen freezer. When she again asked where the grebe was he said, “Oh, well I called the guy and told him that a customer had told me that the grebe was illegal so he told me to throw it out back and I did.” Dragotta recovered the grebe. The taxidermist informed her of the man who had brought the birds in last month and said they were American mergansers and that he did not know any difference until a guy came to pick up his duck and told him. While Dragotta was still at the taxidermist, the individual showed up. He claimed that he shot the birds the day after Christmas when duck season opened up again and that he thought they were both mergansers. The taxidermist was charged with illegally possessing wild game and agreed to a $100 penalty. He was also charged by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agent Lee A. Schneckenberger for failing to obtain a license to mount waterfowl and failing to maintain a record of waterfowl taken in and was fined $300. The individual who brought the birds to the shop agreed to a penalty of $500 for taking protected birds. In addition, they have both agreed to take the Waterfowl ID course this fall.
Family that plays together
During March ECO John Stansfield was following up on hunters who failed to report their deer harvest. He documented a woman who had taken a buck during the season but failed to report it as required. Stansfield stopped at her residence and her husband immediately wanted to know what was wrong. Stansfield stated that he saw that both his wife and he had lifetime hunting licenses and wanted to know if they had any problems getting their carcass tags. The man stated that he had some problems, but he had solved it before the season. Stansfield then asked if he had any luck this past deer season and he responded that he had taken a buck and a doe. Stansfield then asked him if his wife had taken any deer. The man said that she bagged a nice doe. Stansfield was then invited inside the house, where he could speak with the wife about the deer she took during the past year. When asked she confirmed that she had taken a doe. Stansfield asked her if she had taken a buck during the season and she replied “no.” Stansfield then advised her that someone must have stolen her carcass tag because there was a buck at the deer processor last November that had her tag on it. Her husband immediately lowered his head and confessed that he had used his wife’s tag on a buck he killed. When asked why, he replied that he had killed a deer and discovered the antlers were not as big as he thought and that he did not want to use his tag on such a small deer. It was determined that the wife did not know that her husband had used her tag until much later and in fact her husband still had his unused regular season carcass tag in his possession. Stansfield issued two written warnings for failure to report their deer and issued a ticket to the husband for possessing the tag of another.
DWI, and more
On March 22, ECO Kevin Riggs charged a 22-year-old Fort Covington man with driving while intoxicated, possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, discharging a firearm over a portion of a public highway. These were all misdemeanors. The DWI arrest was turned over to New York State Police in Malone. The suspect was issued an appearance ticket for the Fort Covington and Bombay courts, since the offenses took place in two towns. He faces maximum penalties of $200 to $1,000 on each environmental charge and up to three months in jail.
Illegal solid waste operation
On March 9, Lt. Martin Townley and ECO Kristina Shephard worked together on a tip they had received from Region 3 Solid Waste personnel. Based on that information, the officers conducted surveillance in an unmarked vehicle of the facility in West Nyack. The facility’s permit to accept construction and demolition (C&D) waste had expired December of 2010, but they had reportedly continued to operate. After some waiting, they observed a truck from a Westchester carting company dump a load of C&D material near the facility’s loading area. From that area they had been loading rail cars with the waste that was later to be transported by the company. The driver was charged with the release of 30 cubic yards of solid waste to an unauthorized facility. The general manager of the facility admitted to having received a number of notices from the DEC of their permit’s expiration. He was charged with operating a solid waste management facility without a permit; the case was pending in Clarkstown Town Court.
On February 26, T/Sgt. Keith Isles was notified by the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office that the Regional Hospital in Cobleskill had notified them that a subject was at the emergency room with a hunting-related gunshot wound to the face. Isles responded and interviewed the victim and the shooter at the hospital. The wound consisted of a single pellet embedded in the victim’s left cheekbone. The victim was released from the hospital and he, the shooter, Isles and Lt. Tom Harrington, returned to the scene to take advantage of the remaining daylight to make observations. The shooter described his location in a very brushy area, but he was unable to locate the exact area. The victim’s description of the area was much the same and he also could not locate his position. Returning to the New York State Police barracks in Cobleskill, depositions were taken from the shooter, victim and a third hunter who was also on the scene. Both the victim and the shooter described the scene as very brushy, with limited visibility. They described shots fired by both at a rabbit, or rabbits, and the victim being struck in the face at a distance of 50 yards by a ricochet off a rock wall. The shooter stated that he could see the shooter off to his right when he fired the wounding round. The shooter had a 20 gauge shotgun and the victim a 12 gauge. The following day, Isles returned to the scene with K9 Shamey to locate the scene and physical evidence. Shamey immediately located four, 20 gauge spent shell casings on the side of a farm road entering the scene. Further down the road, Shamey located a single 12 gauge casing, the wad, and rabbit fur where a rabbit was taken. Entering the area described as the scene by the hunters, it was indeed very brushy. Taking advantage of Shamey’s ability to work the brush, he was released to locate physical evidence. Before long, Shamey alerted to a point where four spent 20 gauge shells were found, believed to be from the shooter. Shamey continued locating three of the possible four 20 gauge wads and rabbit fur in line with the shells and one of the wads. Continuing, Shamey located the spent shell casing of the victim’s 12 gauge and finally the wad from the 12 gauge in a different direction of the rabbit. With all the evidence flagged, the shot patterns became evident. All points were documented on GPS, and indicated the victim was 36 yards from the shooter in a direct line from the last shot fired, calling into question his claim that the shot was a ricochet. The scene was photographed, and evidence collected. After three hours, one officer and a K9 successfully completed the reconstruction which indicated that a failure to identify the victim located beyond the target, and not a ricochet, was the most likely cause of the accident.