LOS ANGELES — A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles on Monday sentenced an El Toro man to 10 months in prison for illegally transporting hazardous waste to Mexico in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. also fined Raymond Franco $4,000.
Franco was the first person in the nation charged and convicted under the federal act, a statute that prohibits the knowing transportation of any hazardous waste to a facility. The law also prohibits the knowing export of hazardous waste without the consent of the receiving country.
Franco was arrested after an investigation into his activities by a joint federal and state task force on environmental prosecutions, said Assistant U.S. Atty. John Potter, who handled the case with Deputy Dist. Atty. William Carter.
The investigation revealed that Franco and a co-defendant, David Torres of Tijuana, arranged for the unlawful transportation of hazardous paint and solvent wastes generated by the Barnet Aluminum Corp. of Torrance to the co-defendant's warehouse in Tijuana.
Franco and Torres unlawfully exported about 50 55-gallon drums of waste to the Tijuana warehouse, Potter said.
Franco, 58, pleaded guilty on May 23 to one felony count of conspiracy and two felony counts of illegal export of hazardous waste to Mexico.
Carter said that previously the longest sentence that had been imposed in Los Angeles federal court for any environmental violation was six months. But he added that state courts have imposed sentences of up to three years for environmental crimes.
Carter said Torres fled to Mexico after the indictment. He said there has been no attempt to have Torres extradited from Mexico to the United States to stand trial.
U.S. law enforcement officials predict that the clandestine export of hazardous waste will become the international crime of the 1990s--a problem as big as arms or drug trafficking.
One of the easiest routes to take, law enforcement officials say, is Interstate 5, through the center of California to San Ysidro and across the border to Tijuana.
Authorities say the problem is simple. Southern California produces about two-thirds of the state's toxic waste. In 1988, for instance, about 1 million tons of hazardous waste was produced in the region, according to the state health department.