John Deck, of Norwood, New Jersey, entered guilty pleas on charges to commit wire fraud and conspiracy in relation to his actions regarding unsafe and unlawful disposal of hazardous waste, including asbestos, from sites in both his home state and in New York State and relocating the dangerous materials to a vacant field on a farm near the upstate town of Frankfort, New York, near Syracuse. He pleaded guilty to all charges in US Federal Court on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the New York branch of the US Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Deck was the sole proprietor of a trucking firm known as J.A.D., Inc. Mr. Deck, who was also the sole operator of the firm, created the corporation in accordance with state laws in New Jersey. Federal prosecutors stated that Mr. Deck acted as a middleman between facilities that managed cleanup efforts for the disposal of asbestos, as well as other potentially dangerous solid wastes, and independent tractor-trailer drivers who would carry away the hazardous material.
A spokesman for the US Attorney’s office outlined the case against Mr. Deck. In their arguments, prosecutors claimed that Mr. Deck and his firm helped to coordinate a major operation that involved illegally moving tons of asbestos and other wastes from the cleanup sites to a large landfill in Frankfort. The illegal landfill sat near the Mohawk River, a major source of fresh water for the upstate New York region. The US Attorney’s office estimates that the dumping operation carried off nearly thirty thousand tons of asbestos during the summer and autumn of 2006.
As part of his guilty plea, Mr. Deck confessed that he had received a bogus permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which he would then send to the independent truck drivers with whom he worked. The permits would allow the truck drivers to transport asbestos and other hazardous substances legally. In return for their use of the permit, the drivers would pay Mr. Deck a commission on every trucking job he coordinated for them. He said that he obtained the false permit from his co-conspirators. Federal prosecutors are investigating Mr. Deck’s claim and investigators are following up leads on the unnamed co-conspirators.
The Frankfort site has now been designated a “Superfund” cleanup site by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Although no dollar amount has yet been set with regard to the cost of cleaning the site, the EPA estimates that the economic impact of the asbestos remediation efforts alone will run well into the millions. In addition to the legal penalties Mr. Deck faces after his guilty plea, he will also be expected to help cover the costs of the cleanup project.
Mr. Deck’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 8, 2010, at the US District Courthouse in Utica, New York. He could face a prison sentence of five years in a federal penitentiary and a maximum fine of $250,000. Neither Mr. Deck nor his attorney made a statement to the press after he entered his guilty pleas.
Sources: Newsday.com, WKTV