October 2, 2014
Of the three-letter acronyms for federal agencies that cause the most dread in CEOs, owners, officers and plant managers across the company, EPA ( next, perhaps, to IRS) is probably right at the top. Ordinary regulatory actions (and civil suits) regarding alleged pollution violations are worrying enough; far worse, however, is the specter raised by notice by EPA (Environmental Protection Act) that criminal investigations are under way.
EPA’s criminal enforcement actions resulted in more than $4.5 billion in combined fines, restitution and court-ordered environmental projects in fiscal year 2013 alone. In some cases, however, a wholly different kind of punishment can be – and has been – imposed, jail time. And this harsh penalty is utilized more than is commonly assumed.
One example: In March 2013, the owner of a Texas bio-diesel company was sentenced for 51 counts of wire fraud, 24 counts of money laundering and four counts of making false statements in the context of the Clean Air Act (CAA) violation after pleading guilty to participating in a scheme to defraud the EPA. EPA, with the U.S. Secret Service, conducted the joint investigation; in the end, the individual received a $175,000 fine, 188 months in federal prison in addition to being ordered to pay almost $55 million in restitution.