WASHINGTON – Fort Wayne, Michelle M. Rousseff-Kemp of Indiana was convicted in Fort Wayne federal court on Thursday after pleading guilty to falsifying a document and illegally storing hazardous waste. U.S. District Court Judge Holly A. Brady sentenced Rousseff-Kemp to 24 months in prison and fined him $ 5,500.
According to court documents filed in this case, Rousseff-Kemp was the president and owner of a business in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and acted as an environmental services company providing comprehensive waste management services. Among other things, the business functioned as a carrier and intermediary of hazardous waste. Neither Rousseff-Kemp nor his company were allowed to store hazardous waste.
Under the law, a properly prepared hazardous waste manifest must be accompanied by hazardous waste from the waste generator to the transporter and then to the hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facility, where the waste is eventually delivered. Finally, a copy of the manifesto with the signatures of the carrier and the TSD facility must be sent to the hazardous waste generator.
According to court documents, in June 2018, the Rousseff-Kempen company received hazardous waste from another company that generated the waste. In November 2018, the waste generator sent an email to Rousseff-Kemp requesting copies of the latest hazardous waste shipment manifestos. At one point, Rousseff-Kemp asked an employee of his company to sign the name of a representative of the TSD facility in the June Waste Manifesto. After the employee resigned, Rousseff-Kemp falsified the signature of the representative of the TSD facility in the manifesto. Rousseff-Kemp then sent a forged copy of the manifesto to the waste generator. The copy of the manifesto contained false information showing that the hazardous waste had been delivered to the TSD facility on 15 July 2018 and that it had been signed by a representative of the TSD facility on that date. In fact, as Rousseff-Kemp learned, the waste was not sent to the TSD facility and was still stored by Rousseff-Kemp’s company.
“The honesty and integrity of those involved in the storage and transportation of hazardous waste is essential to protecting the health and environment of our citizens,” said Todd Kim, chief prosecutor of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will prosecute those who falsify records and illegally store hazardous waste.”
“Protecting public health and safety is critical to enforcing federal criminal law that regulates the proper storage of hazardous waste,” said U.S. Attorney Clifford D. Johnson. “My Office has strong law enforcement partnerships, through which we will investigate and prosecute those who endanger public health for criminal violations of these laws.”
“Defendant was aware that he falsified documents and violated the legal requirements for the proper storage of hazardous waste,” said Larry Starfield, EPA’s Assistant Administrator in the Office of Compliance and Compliance. “This case proves that people who are aware of violating environmental laws will be held responsible for their crimes.”
“This ruling underscores our commitment to safeguarding the safety and integrity of the nation’s transportation systems,” said Andrea Kropf, the Special Agent for the West Central Region. “Working with our law enforcement and prosecutors, we will continue to pursue laws and regulations designed to protect the public from hazardous materials.”
In addition, according to court documents, Rousseff-Kemp organized another transportation company in March 2019 to collect hazardous waste from a waste generator. The hazardous waste was then, by order of Rousseff-Kemp, stored at his company’s facilities and elsewhere until June. 2019. During that time, in May 2019, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management entered into agreements with Rousseff-Kemp to conduct an inspection of his company’s facilities. Prior to the scheduled inspection, Rousseff-Kemp ordered an individual to transport three trailers containing garbage cans that were being stored at the Rousseff-Kemp company facility to an off-site location. Among the tow truck bins were the hazardous waste bins collected in March. Two days later, during an IDEM inspection, Rousseff-Kemp told inspectors that the only trailers in the first place that week were empty but not in the inspection.
The case was initiated by the Indiana District Environmental Crime Task Force and was jointly investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, the Office of the Inspector General of Transportation and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Criminal Investigation Office. The case was tried by Stephen J. Foster and Kris Digh of the Environmental Crimes Division of the Justice and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, U.S. Assistant Attorney Sarah E. Nokes and U.S. Assistant Special Prosecutor David P. Mucha.