Northern District highlights
On July 27, ECO John Lifrieri was contacted by Lt. Matt Lochner, who was off duty when he overheard an individual yell that he was going to commit suicide and then an argument ensued with a second person. A few minutes later he heard a single gunshot that sounded like a shotgun. He immediately contacted Schuyler County 911 and then the lieutenant came into service and discovered there was a domestic dispute on Tower Hill Road around the corner from his home. According to the girlfriend involved in the domestic incident, the suspect had gotten angry, made the suicide threat and grabbed his shotgun and went up the road in his vehicle. According to the girlfriend, he got out of the vehicle and went to the nearby woodline of state forest property and discharged one round into the woods to “blow off steam.” He then returned to the camper where the two were temporarily staying on returned the shotgun and fled with his girlfriend and their two children. When Schuyler County Sheriff’s Deputy Yessman attempted to stop the vehicle, the suspect attempted to flee and a short pursuit ensued. He soon thought better of his choice and stopped the vehicle. He was taken into custody by the deputy. The girlfriend and the children were returned to the camper. Meanwhile, Lochner discovered a pot-growing operation behind the camper which produced several plants. The suspect admitted to being the grower. Also, several environmental violations were discovered on the property. Lifrieri was called to handle those violations. He interviewed the suspect, who admitted to an open burn and leaving an unattended fire where the open burn occurred. There was also a large quantity of trash and debris on the property. The suspect at first denied any part in the dumping, but eventually admitted that he had brought some of the debris from a construction job site in Chemung County. He was charged with illegal disposal of solid waste, unattended fire and open burning of rubbish, a misdemeanor. The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department charged him with growing marijuana. The marijuana was confiscated and destroyed. The environmental charges were to be heard in the Town of Orange Court. The penal law charges will be heard on a separate date.
Sailboat disposal doesn’t float
On July 4, a man grounded his 26-foot sailboat in Ontario on the shoreline of Lake Ontario during an excursion from Oswego Harbor to Lake Erie. The damage to the boat was very minimal at the time of the grounding, and the boat could have been easily towed to a safe harbor with a little work. After receiving a complaint from concerned neighbors in September, ECO Joshua Crain contacted the man and advised him to remove the boat from the lakeshore. This was to be done before the north and westerly winter winds and ice pack smashed the boat into pieces, making recovery difficult. The owner, however, left the boat on the lakeshore throughout the winter, at which time it was destroyed beyond recognition by Mother Nature. In November, Crain charged the sailboat owner with unlawfully disposing of the sailboat on the lakeshore and continued to request that he remove the vessel. In June the remainder of the boat was removed from the lake and properly disposed of, and at the conclusion of the year-long case, the man paid a $1,500 fine and the disposal costs.
Illegal open burning
On July 5, ECO Chris Freeman received a call from DEC Region 9 dispatch regarding the Fredonia Fire Department requesting assistance with an illegal open burn. At approximately 4 p.m., Freeman arrived at the complaint location to find nobody on scene. He could see where the still-smoldering fire was quite large, with evidence of construction and demolition material being burned. Upon further inspection of the scene, it was also evident the residence was under some remodeling. After some photos were taken, the ECO went to the Fredonia Fire Department for further information. According to the fire chief, the property owner set the construction and demolition material on fire because he had no means of getting rid of it. The suspect advised the fire department that he knew it was illegal to burn and would wait for the conservation officer to arrive. Later that evening, Freeman caught up with the alleged responsible party at his current living address in Dunkirk. After interviewing him, Freeman asked why he didn’t stick around for him to arrive. “The smoke was so bad it was making me sick, so I left,” he said. Freeman issued tickets for the illegal burning of material not permitted and illegal disposal of solid waste. The case was pending in the Town of Pomfret Court.
On July 18, a complaint came into the regional office that a cloud of dust was being generated from a nearby sandblasting operation. The particles were blowing into the farmer’s market near the corner of Bailey Avenue and Clinton Street. ECO Carl Gill went to Dorothy Street in the city of Buffalo and observed a cloud of dust coming from the rear of 107 Dorothy Street and observed a contactor sandblasting and applying a coating to a 10,000-gallon, above-ground petroleum bulk storage container. The tank was made at that location and the company was contracted to apply the coating in a temporary facility. The facility was a large tent and storage containers. The dust from the use of the abrasives was released through a ventilation fan with no provisions to filter the dust. The supervisor of the site was issued two summons for operating abrasive cleaning without emission control and creating air contaminant emission off site, made returnable to the city of Buffalo Court.
Tough lesson for teen
On July 6, ECO Ricardo Grisolini responded to a house on Route 315 with a state trooper in regard to a complaint of shooting within 500 feet of a dwelling. The witness informed the officer that she saw and photographed a young man pull up in front of her house and fire three rounds at a woodchuck in a field across the road from her house. She claimed the suspect then got back in the vehicle and drove off. She then immediately dialed 911. She also claimed to see the same young man shoot at a woodchuck the evening of July 5 around 7 p.m. Photographs of the vehicle, along with a supporting deposition were taken. The trooper and Grisolini canvassed the area for a vehicle meeting the description of the photo. On Brothertown Road, a young man was found leaning up against the vehicle in question. Upon approached the vehicle, the officers recovered a loaded .22 caliber Ruger rifle. The vehicle was occupied by an 18-year-old who claimed he shot at a woodchuck but was unaware of the firearms laws. The teen was cited for possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a residence. He was arraigned on Aug. 15 in the town of Marshall.
Working undercover on the Whetstone Reservoir, ECO Shana Hutton observed a fisherman set up on the causeway and started using large fallfish as bait. After watching the fisherman for some time, Hutton approached the fisherman and asked where he got the bait. He stated he had caught them in a creek in Turin. Hutton identified herself and the fisherman knew he was caught. Hutton issued the fisherman a ticket for use and transporting uncertified baitfish.
Unlawful alligator possession
In July, ECO Andy McCormick received a call from the state police. They informed him that while conducting an unrelated investigation they found that an individual in the town of Sanford was in possession of a three-foot alligator. McCormick responded to the subject’s residence in the town of Sanford and interviewed the subject. When McCormick inquired as to the origin of the alligator, the man indicated that he and his father had picked it up off from the side of the road in Louisiana six or seven years prior. McCormick informed the subject that the possession of this animal in New York was unlawful and also informed the suspect that he and his father most likely violated federal laws, as well as laws from Louisiana. McCormick informed the suspect that he would have to find a new home for the alligator. The subject agreed and the alligator is now living outside of New York state. The subject agreed to a consent order to settle the offense.
On July 7, ECO Brian Wade received a complaint from a frustrated landowner. The man described his property as having a nice pond full of largemouth bass. He said that only one person has permission to fish there. There was also a rule that all fish be released. On Facebook there were postings from an hour before showing this person with a group of people that he had brought fishing. The photos posted also showed that they kept many large bass and the caller wanted them arrested for trespass and stealing his fish. Wade explained it wasn’t against the law to keep the fish as they were in season and of the legal length. The caller agreed it would have been acceptable for the man to bring guests had he not kept the fish. Wade used Facebook to identify as many of the subjects as he could. Interviews less than an hour later with the pictures Wade had as proof, led to the arrest of two subjects for fishing without a license. The man who was given permission didn’t have a license, along with his brother-in-law. The case was returnable in Mt. Morris Town Court.
‘Where did you park, Steve?’
On July 2, ECO Brian Wade was patrolling in the town of Caledonia where he noticed a truck parked in an odd spot behind a guardrail with tall weeds where no one would park. Having had many complaints about trespassing in the local stone quarry nearby, Wade investigated. He located four fishermen and decided to watch and listen for a while to see if they kept illegal fish. A few minutes after arriving, Wade heard one woman yell out, “Where did you park, Steve?” Steve pointed out in the direction where the truck was parked in the weeds. The woman began to yell at Steve for parking there, stating “if you park out there he’ll know we’re here.” Wade then recognized two of them and realized that he was the “he” they referred to. The same people were escorted out of the quarry about a month before by Wade. After listening to more incriminating statements Wade escorted them out again but gave them trespass tickets before parting ways. They should have parked someplace else or maybe just listened to the first warning Wade gave them.
While on patrol, ECO Charles Wilson observed a truck hauling a trailer and boat run a red light. In addition, the brake lights were inoperable and the displayed registration sticker was expired. The officer stopped the vehicle and spoke with the operator. After further interview, the driver stated he and his girlfriend “had a great day on the water” and were in possession of several walleye. Wilson was shown the boat’s livewell. The man seemed to get nervous as the officer reached for a tape measure. “I’m a contractor,” he explained. “I measured all of them.” The officer measured several borderline fish, including one that was well short of the 15-inch minimum size. The man later admitted that he measured a few, but threw the others in the box because they looked good enough. Two tickets were issued returnable to the city of Buffalo Court, one for a vehicle and traffic violation and the second for possessing an undersized walleye.
Southern District highlights
On June 22, ECO David Thomas completed a lengthy investigation into a supermarket that was dumping raw sewage into a stream. Thomas went to a supermarket plaza in Staten Island numerous times with Ed Rossan of DEC’s Bureau of Water and the members of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection in attempts to determine a point source for PVC pipes discharging raw sewage. A successful dye test performed with the help of NYC DEP showed the pipes in question were, in fact, connected to two septic tanks on the property and were acting as overflows for the tanks. Investigation into this matter revealed possibly the property owners had been discharging sewage since at least 2010. The plaza was cited for four counts of discharging without a permit and faces penalties of up to $25,000 for each charge.
Environmental justice enforcement
On July 17, DEC’s Region 1 participated in the statewide initiative to provide enhanced environmental protection in communities around the state that statistically experience higher than average environmental health concerns. Supervised by Lts. Matt Blaising and Tom Gadomski, the detail in Region 1 focused on truck inspections and local business compliance with environmental regulations in the community of Wyandanch. Over 30 tickets were issued for various violations related to truck safety and emissions inspections. Additionally, several local auto maintenance and dry cleaner businesses were visited and advised of their responsibilities under the Environmental Conservation Law and NYCRR.
(Nassau/ western Suffolk counties)
ECOs in both Nassau and western Suffolk counties, under the direction of Lt. Matt Blaising and Lt. Tom Gadomski, participated in a three-day pesticides detail, working with several Division of Pesticides inspectors. The detail was focused on finding and stopping unregistered and uncertified pesticide businesses.They checked more than 53 applicators and ECOs issued 29 appearance tickets. Businesses applying pesticides for commercial purposes must undergo 30 hours of training, which includes instruction on the safe application, transport and storage of these toxic substances. Unregistered and uncertified applicators pose a threat to public health and safety, and may also possess an unfair price advantage over those businesses that follow state laws.
Snakes for sale
During the month of July, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation Investigators in Region 1 became aware of a posting on craigslist advertising Burmese pythons for sale. This species has been banned for interstate transport by the U.S. Fish and Wildlive Service due to the invasive species population of pythons that has established itself in the southern U.S., particularly in Florida’s Everglades. Furthermore, a DEC permit is required to possess these animals. Working with special agents from the USFWS and Region One uniformed officers, Lt. Matt Blaising, Lt. Frank Lapinski and ECIs Gerry Carpenter and Linda Escobar coordinated a buy/bust of the reptiles in question. ECO Dustin Oliver served as the undercover buyer. On July 13, Oliver was able to effect the purchase in a parking lot in Oakdale. The suspect, Arthur Davidson of Bay Shore, N.Y., was arrested for illegal sale of wild animals after selling 28 baby albino Burmese pythons to the undercover conservation officer for $2,400. He was charged under Environmental Conservation Law as a Class E felony. The subject was transported to the New York State Police Troop L barracks in Farmingdale, where he was processed and released. Thirty-five juvenile pythons and one 14-foot long breeder female python were seized as evidence.
On September 5, Davidson pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of selling wild animals as pet and was fined $5,000 by Judge Gaetan B. Lozito at the First District Court in Suffolk. Prosecution of the case was handled by New York State Assistant Attorney General Hugh McLean.
Burmese pythons are one of the six largest species of snakes in the world. Native to Southeast Asia, they were imported into the United States for the pet trade. In their native environment they are hunted for their skins and meat, leading to a huge drop in their numbers in the wild.
Their fast growth rate made them popular as pets. This also, however, led to their introduction into Florida’s Everglades, where they have begun to displace native species. In the wild, they can grow as long as 22 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds.
Burmese pythons have been banned for interstate transport by the USFWS due to the ease this species has in adapting itself to warm weather environments. In New York, a DEC permit is required to possess these animals.
The investigators found that three male officers could not straighten out the 14-foot, 100-pound snake that was taken from Davidson, unless the snake let them.
The snakes have since been donated to educational and research institutions for their use. Both facilities have permits from DEC to possess these animals.
On May 22, ECO Matthew Baker responded to a location in Brooklyn to conduct a site inspection. Inspection of the wholesaler revealed 57 undersized lobsters with a total weight of 54 pounds. The lobsters were photographed and donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan to help feed the homeless. A criminal summons was issued to the company for possession of undersized lobsters.
‘How much for five?’
On June 23, Marine Enforcement Unit ECOs Kevin Thomas and Jamie Powers were on patrol in Sheepshead Bay near the party boats when they saw a crowd lingering around one boat after all the passengers from the day’s trip had left. The officers stopped and took notice of two crew members talking to people on the dock while scooping up fish from a livewell. It is illegal for party boats to sell their catch. When the officers started seeing money exchange hands, they moved in closer to investigate. Thomas stopped one of the customers and asked if he bought the four black sea bass he was carrying from the boat, to which the purchaser replied, “Yes.” Powers then went into the crowd and yelled to the crew, “How much for five fish?” to which the crew turned around and said, “Who wants five?”As soon as the crew member said this, he realized who the officer was and the look on his face dropped. The officers boarded the boat to find 10 black sea bass and a summer flounder being offered for sale. Neither crew member had a license to sell fish and both admitted to doing so. On top of everything, when the officers checked the boat’s trip report, the captain told them he had not filled out a thing.The one-page report was blank. Appropriate tickets were issued for the violations.
On July 4, Marine Enforcement Unit ECOs George Scheer and Kevin Thomas were preparing to get under way for the Macy’s Day fireworks security detail when Thomas observed a man harvesting mussels from Jamaica Bay where the water is not certified for shellfish harvesting. Thomas watched the man take the mussels to a Chinese restaurant across the street from the bay. Thomas and Scheer went into the establishment to find the mussels that were taken from the bay in the restaurant’s walk-in cooler where they store food that will be consumed by patrons of the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant and the harvester admitted to harvesting the shellfish and were issued summonses for possession of untagged shellfish and harvesting from uncertified waters.
On July 7, ECO Dave Hulett received a phone complaint which he thought might turn into the first bear poaching case of the year for Region 8. The caller reported he had just observed a dead bear in the back of a truck as the vehicle passed by his house. Dave was in the area and was at the complainant’s residence within five minutes. During a quick interview, the caller reported he had observed a white full size mid-1990s Chevy truck with a black ladder rack pass by his house. In the bed of the truck he clearly saw a dead black bear. The caller provided direction of travel and Hulett was off to patrol the immediate area looking for the truck. He could actually follow the tire tracks on the dirt road until the suspect vehicle reached a paved county highway. During the search, Hulett contacted a friend who runs bear dogs and asked if he was aware of any “bear dog guys” with a matching vehicle. No luck. Knowing the dirt road where the truck was seen starts at the village of Canisteo, Hulett then called another friend who owns a taxidermy shop in the village. He called the shop owner and asked if anyone had picked up a bear mount that morning. Sure enough, a successful hunter from the fall of 2011 had just picked up his full mount black bear. The happy hunter was driving a white Chevy truck with a black ladder rack. The man who picked up the bear lived in an adjacent town and the route taken past the complainant’s home was a short cut. Hulett called the complainant and reported the case was solved and thanked him for calling as both men had a good laugh.