Addis man ordered to pay his former employer’s expenses in federal case

An Addis man owes the owners of an Assumption Parish company $114,969 for pumping 380,000 gallons of unauthorized industrial wastewater down their injection well, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in Baton Rouge.

Michael J. Vaughn, 33, former operations manager at FAS Environmental Services’ injection well at Belle River, pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to violate the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and one count of falsifying well records.

Prosecutors have stated throughout the case that the owners of FAS Environmental Services had no knowledge of Vaughn’s crimes prior to the investigation by the EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality.

“It was a mess,” FAS Environmental co-owner Christie Gravois testified Tuesday of Vaughn’s injection-well records.

“Everything was forged,” Gravois said, before adding that she once feared the company would be destroyed by Vaughn’s crimes.

During questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey R. Amundson, EPA Special Agent Nicole Bein testified: “Documentation was forged in such a way that FAS officials were unaware of where shipments of wastewater were going.”

When pressed on that point by Vaughn’s attorney, Edward J. Gonzales III, Bein added that information on some shipments of wastewater were manipulated to falsely indicate they were forwarded to a Baton Rouge location.

In May, Vaughn admitted that he accepted $22,893 in illegal kickbacks from Raymond Marcel Jr., 60, of Berwick, and Cyril D. Robicheaux, 53, of Morgan City, to covertly shoot chemical wastes from the processing of used oil down the FAS well. Vaughn added that he also accepted wastes from Marcel and Robicheaux that resulted from tests on oil well blowout-prevention equipment.

Marcel and Robicheaux’s Morgan City firm — RAM Environmental Services LLC — brokered the transportation of industrial wastewater to Vaughn at the injection well.

In October, Brady sentenced Vaughn to one year of incarceration at a federal halfway house and a five-year term of probation.

The restitution of $114,969 ordered in favor of FAS Environmental is for attorney fees and other expenses company owners covered while they cooperated in the investigation, Brady noted Tuesday.

The judge added, however, that Vaughn’s responsibility for that debt possibly would be amended, depending on future developments in the case.

Those developments include the future sentencings of Marcel and Robicheaux.

Both Robicheaux and Marcel pleaded guilty in June to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the EPA and violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Robicheaux is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12. Marcel’s court file did not include a sentencing date Tuesday.