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4 Indicted by U.S. Over Toxic Waste Shipments to Mexico

April 23, 1986|JANNY SCOTT | Times Staff Writer

Two American businessmen, a retired U.S. Army major and an associate in Mexico have been indicted on charges of arranging for toxic wastes from firms in Los Angeles and San Diego to be dumped illegally near a Mexican village.

The allegations, made in a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday in San Diego that is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, include bribing Mexican officials, falsifying export and import documents, and lying to U.S. generators of hazardous wastes.

The case stems from the discovery in January of an illegal dump near the Mexican border town of Tecate. The dump constituted the first evidence to support a growing suspicion that tightening U.S. laws on waste disposal might lead to shipping of U.S. wastes into Mexico.

"The materials sent down there were exported unlawfully, imported unlawfully, dumped unlawfully, and the entire operation was unlawful," Assistant U.S. Atty. Charles S. Crandall said Tuesday in U.S. District Court. "It was able to proceed because of bribes that were paid as well as falsified documents that were created by the defendants."

According to the 41-count indictment, Darrel A. Duisen of Chula Vista, George W. Shearer of Bonita and retired Maj. Glenn D. Faulks of Oceanside in 1985 formed U.S. Technology and Disposal Services and solicited chemical wastes from California firms on promises of proper disposal.

At the same time, Duisen and Rogelio A. Marin-Orosco, a Mexican-American living in Tijuana, formed a Mexican company called Tratamientos Petroquimicos Mexicanos and contracted with U.S. Technology in National City to provide a dump for the wastes, the indictment states.

More than 100,000 gallons of liquid wastes and other solids were dumped illegally in a field southeast of Tecate between October and January, prosecutors say. Falsified import and export documents indicated that the wastes were solvents and raw materials rather than wastes, they say.

Law enforcement officials said the four men made at least $45,000 in three months before Mexican and U.S. officials halted the shipments. The officials declined to identify U.S. Technology's clients, saying the firms believed the operation was legitimate.

The dump, said in the indictment to contain asbestos, paint residues, contaminated soils and other wastes defined as hazardous under California law, has been shut down by Mexican officials. They have also closed a nearby well for fear that it is contaminated.

On Tuesday, Duisen, 55; Faulks, 62, and Marin, 27, each pleaded innocent in U.S. District Court in San Diego to the charges--41 counts each of conspiracy, mail fraud and utilization of false documents. Shearer, 53, was arrested Tuesday and awaits arraignment.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. None of the defendants is charged formally with bribery, although the indictment alleges that Marin "did pay bribe monies to government officials in Mexico."

None of the three defendants arraigned Tuesday had yet hired lawyers who might respond to the allegations. However, in an interview in February, Duisen said the operation was entirely aboveboard and the Mexican facility was approved by U.S. engineers.

Federal, state and county officials have suspected for more than a year that the tightening of environmental laws and dump closings in Southern California might be encouraging financially strapped industries to look for cheap disposal sites across the border.

But informal investigations and even a weeklong border stakeout at San Ysidro last summer failed to turn up hard evidence. Then U.S. Customs officials learned in December of a rise in the number of empty tank trucks coming north across the border at Tecate.

They traced the traffic to a 250-acre field near Federal Highway 2 in Mexico, 15 miles southeast of Tecate. The field, containing tens of thousands of gallons of wastes from the United States, turned out to be called Rancho Ramo and was operated as a dump by Tratamientos.

According to the indictment, Duisen, Shearer and others representing the two U.S. and Mexican firms assured U.S. waste generators and transporters that Rancho Ramo was a legitimate waste-processing facility comparable to state-of-the-art facilities in the United States.

They allegedly said U.S. engineers had approved the dump after conducting water, seismic and engineering studies. Also, Shearer allegedly claimed that the dump had the approval of the U.S. and Mexican governments, when in fact it did not.

Duisen and Shearer allegedly told customers not to inform state health officials that they intended to export the wastes, as is required under state law. Marin allegedly certified on state documents that the wastes had been lawfully accepted at Rancho Ramo.

According to the indictment, the defendants also hid the state documents from customs brokers and officials, and stated that the wastes were in fact "useful raw products" including solvents and sand.

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