A Mexican businessman has been sentenced to three months in jail and fined $25,000 for transporting hazardous waste from the San Fernando Valley to Mexico--the first conviction involving an international border under a 1985 California toxic waste law, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito sentenced Horacio Sosa, 55, Tuesday under a plea agreement made with the district attorney's office.
Sosa pleaded no contest May 21 to one count of illegally transporting 55-gallon drums of cyanide electroplating solution in June, 1989, from All American Plating Corp. in North Hollywood to FDC Metallicos, a machine shop Sosa operates in Mexicali, Mexico, said Deputy Dist. Atty. William W. Carter. Thirty to 50 drums were involved, Carter said.
"This is the first case on the state level where someone has been charged for unlawfully transporting hazardous waste to a foreign country," in violation of the California Hazardous Waste Control Act, which requires that hazardous waste be taken only to a licensed disposal facility, Carter said.
Although other defendants have been convicted of violating the state law for domestic shipments of hazardous waste, he said, "Sosa is the first person to be convicted and sent to jail for the unlawful transportation of hazardous waste to a foreign country."
Others who have shipped waste abroad have been convicted on federal fraud charges but were not charged with hazardous waste violations, Carter said. A hazardous waste case under federal law ended in a conviction two days after Sosa's plea, but sentence has not yet been passed, Carter said.
Sosa "said he planned to use the waste in a shop he planned to open--but the shop never opened and the waste ended up just being stored down there," Carter said.
When Carter investigated the conditions in which the cyanide-filled barrels were kept in Mexico, he found "the majority of the barrels were just sitting outside a business," he said. "The labels had fallen or faded off."
"When we talked to people in Mexicali, they weren't even sure what barrels had cyanide in them," Carter said. Other barrels were "basically abandoned" in warehouses in Mexico, Carter said.
Soleiman Motamed of Sherman Oaks, owner of Triple S Chemical Products Inc., has also been charged with transportation of hazardous waste for allegedly setting up the deal between Sosa and All American Plating Corp., Carter said.
Motamed's preliminary hearing on two felony counts of illegally transporting hazardous waste is scheduled for Friday in Los Angeles Municipal Court, Carter said.
The owner and general manager of now-defunct All American Plating were convicted in 1989 in a separate case of illegally dumping toxic waste in the sewers of the San Fernando Valley, Carter said. Owner Yoav (Joe) Pantilant was sentenced to one year in county jail and his brother, Tom Pantilant, the company's general manager, was given a six-month sentence, Carter said.
Carter said illegal hazardous waste dumping has proven to be a far larger problem than authorities originally anticipated.
"We're just scratching the surface," Carter said. "There are a lot more cases like this out there."