Two plead guilty in wastewater disposal, kickback scheme

A Morgan City wastewater brokerage firm and its owners pleaded guilty Monday to illegally disposing of industrial wastewater in Baton Rouge and Belle River, U.S. Attorney Don Cazayoux announced.

RAM Environmental Services Inc. and owners Raymond Marcel Jr., 60, of Berwick, and Cyril D. Robicheaux, 53, of Morgan City, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

RAM has agreed to be sentenced to three years of probation, a $50,000 fine, and restitution to be determined by the court, Cazayoux said in a prepared statement.

Marcel and Robicheaux each face up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution.

U.S. District Judge James Brady did not set a sentencing date.

The guilty pleas were the result of a wide-ranging and ongoing federal and state investigation into corruption and fraud surrounding federal environmental laws, Cazayoux said. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is involved in the probe.

The defendants admitted in court Monday that they conspired with themselves and others in 2011 and 2012 to illegally discharge industrial wastewater at locations in Belle River and Baton Rouge, and to obstruct the enforcement of federal environmental laws through kickbacks, the creation and use of false documents, and other fraudulent means, Cazayoux said.

The defendants also admitted they schemed with the owner of the Baton Rouge site to lie to investigators regarding the disposals, Cazayoux said.

The defendants further admitted that they paid more than $22,000 in kickbacks to Michael J. Vaughn, the operations manager of transportation and disposal company FAS Environmental Services, in exchange for illegally using FAS’s injection well in Belle River to dispose of more than 380,000 gallons of industrial wastewater.

Vaughn pleaded guilty May 29 to conspiracy to defraud the EPA and to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act, and making false statements within the jurisdiction of the federal government. He has not been sentenced.

Cazayoux said FAS ownership was unaware of the scheme involving the FAS injection well. FAS has cooperated fully throughout the probe, he said.