The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, www.epa.gov) launched a Web tool designed to enlist the public and other law enforcement agencies in tracking down fugitives accused of violating environmental laws and evading arrest. The tool is available at www.epa.gov/fugitives.
“Putting this information on the EPA’s Web site will increase the number of ‘eyes’ looking for environmental fugitives,” said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a prepared statement. “Two EPA fugitives were captured this year, and this Web site could help us find more fugitives in the future.”
The Web site includes photos of the accused, summaries of their alleged environmental violations, and information on each fugitive’s last known whereabouts. The alleged violations include smuggling of ozone-depleting substances, illegally disposing of hazardous waste, discharging pollutants into the air and water, laundering money and making criminally false statements.
One of the 23 current fugitives is Mauro Valenzuela, 39, a former mechanic for Sabertech (www.sabertech.com). Among his several charges, Valenzuela is alleged to have illegally transported hazardous materials on a commercial aircraft. In 1996, Valenzuela allegedly transported waste oxygen generators onboard ValuJet flight 592 without proper markings and other safety measures. The jet crashed, killing all 110 passengers and crew onboard. Valenzuela failed to appear in federal court nine years ago.
The Web site also lists the EPA’s captured fugitives. Earlier this year, the EPA found two men on the run. David Allen Phillips escaped prison four years ago after being convicted of Clean Water Act crimes in Montana. He fled to Mexico, was turned over to authorities by the Mexican government last March, and awaits further sentencing. David Ortiz fled after the appeal of his conviction for Clean Water Act crimes in 2004. He remained at large for almost four years until his capture last March in Colorado and is currently in prison.
The EPA encourages those that know the whereabouts of an environmental fugitive to submit a “Report a Fugitive” form on its Web site. The information will be electronically sent to the EPA’s national criminal investigation office in Washington, D.C. The public may also choose to report the information to their local police or, if outside the United States, to the nearest U.S. Embassy. Some fugitives may be armed and dangerous, and the EPA warns the public against trying to apprehend them.
Many of the alleged violators listed on the Web site have fled the country. The EPA depends on cooperation with Interpol and other international law enforcement agencies to locate their whereabouts.
Criminal charges are only allegations of misconduct. Individuals who have been charged with environmental crimes are presumed innocent.
For more information on the EPA’s Most Wanted Web site, visit www.epa.gov/fugitives.
For more information on the EPA’s Criminal Enforcement program, visit www.epa.gov/compliance/criminal/index.html.