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10 Face Charges in Waste Sting

Investigators in a Fullerton impound lot called haulers to remove paint and thinner. A Downey fire captain is among the accused.

June 10, 2005|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

A Downey fire captain was among 10 people charged Thursday after an Orange County sting of individuals who allegedly offered cut-rate prices for illegally transporting hazardous waste.

Edward L. Haupt, 44, of Placentia was charged with three misdemeanor counts of transporting toxic materials, officials said. He and nine men from Orange and Los Angeles counties were snared in a three-day sting in March, said an investigator from the California Department of Toxic Substance Control.

None of the defendants was licensed to transport hazardous waste, authorities said. The charges against them are misdemeanors.

"It's our assertion that [Haupt] should know better," said Sam Richardson, one of two investigators who worked undercover and ran the sting out of a police impound lot in Fullerton.

He said the fire captain ran a hauling business on the side, and like the others charged, advertised in local newspapers and weekly shoppers.

"In the course of our conversation," Richardson said, "he said he worked for a fire department and would dispose of the materials at the fire station."

Haupt could not be reached for comment, and Downey Fire Department officials declined to discuss the matter.

Haulers of hazardous materials are required by state law to be licensed and insured, and must document the transport of the waste from pickup to disposal. Hazardous waste must be taken to approved disposal sites and not local landfills.

Richardson said the sting was organized to clamp down on haulers removing hazardous materials from homes illegally. He and his partner, Tom Donahue, used 23 containers -- ranging from 1-gallon jugs to 30-gallon drums -- filled with paint and paint thinner. They called haulers who had advertised their services and waited.

"We made appointments and arranged for them to come to our location," Richardson said. "We didn't trick them. They knew it was hazardous waste."

He said the illegal haulers had offered to transport and dispose of the waste for prices ranging from $300 to $1,200. Legal disposal would have cost about $2,000, Richardson said. The haulers were arrested within a block or two of where they had picked up the materials, he said.

Some haulers refused to take the waste upon learning that it was toxic, Richardson said.

Also charged was Larry L. McKay, who works at the Orange County animal shelter, Richardson said.

The other defendants: Valeriano R. Villalobos of Santa Ana; Robert F. Brion of Monrovia; Sina and Salman Khaneki of Rancho Santa Margarita; Jaime and Gregorio Sanchez of Garden Grove; Manuel E. Rodriguez of Santa Ana; and Abel A. Ambrocio of Garden Grove.

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