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ORANGE COUNTY

4 Accused of Illegal Dumping

October 02, 2002|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Orange County district attorney's office has filed 17 felony dumping charges against a Buena Park chrome-wheel manufacturing company, its owner and three employees. The four men are accused of discharging heavy metals, corrosive acid and other hazardous waste into sewer and storm-drain systems.

The defendants are the Ultra Wheel Corp. and its owner, James Smith, 55, managers Michael Schott, 31, Paul Mayasich, 33, and Gerardo Welti, 49.

They are charged with 12 counts of dumping hazardous waste into the sewer system and five counts of water and penal code violations for dumping hazardous waste into the Coyote Creek flood control channel.

The four surrendered in court Tuesday and were released on their own recognizance. The men face up to 11 years and six months in state prison and $1 million in fines if convicted of all charges.

After a two-year investigation by local, state and federal agencies, the men were accused of dumping dangerous levels of heavy metals and acids--residue from the wheel-plating operation--into the sewer system in October 2000. The complaint also alleges that the four men dumped similar waste into a storm drain that flows into Coyote Creek, as well as directly putting machine coolants and other hydrocarbons into the creek between November 1999 and September 2001.

J. Craig Williams, an attorney representing the company and Smith, said no illegal dumping occurred. Company officials "are cooperating with the district attorney and they believe they're in full compliance," he said.

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