Enforcement

Summary of Criminal Prosecutions

Search Criminal Prosecution

FISCAL YEAR: 2013
1. PRINCIPAL DEFENDANT: Robert Darren Fromdahl
D.  Montana  CR 11-33-GF-SEH
2. DEFENDANT: Matthew Black Eagle
D.  Montana  CR 12-32-GF-SEH


On June 6, 2010, a Wolf Point area rancher reported to the Valley County Sheriff’s Office that he had found approximately 45 drums of unknown substances on land he was leasing from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation tribal government. The Valley County HAZMAT team responded to the site and found 44, 55-gallon drums, some of which were marked “sulphuric acid,” “caustic potash,” and “caustic soda beads.” The team took three samples from the pile of drums. These samples were tested and determined to have a pH of less than 2, making them highly corrosive.

Based on these results, on June 23, 2010, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emergency Response Unit was dispatched from Denver to conduct further sampling and clean up the site. Fromdahl stated that Black Eagle inquired several times during the unloading process on his land whether the materials were toxic. Fromdahl repeatedly told Black Eagle the materials were mostly toxic acid copper. Black Eagle then demanded money from Fromdahl for storing the materials on his property. Fromdahl explained the two Moneygram wire transfers Black Eagle received from Fromdahl's father, totaling $500, were in payment of Black Eagle's demand.

EPA found a total of 74 containers on the site. Analysis of sampling of these containers revealed that 28 of them contained substances with a pH of less than 2 and 4 had a pH of greater than 12–the characteristic of a corrosive hazardous waste. EPA also found a drum with a label that stated “Classic Plating, 2146 Old Hardin Road, Billings, MT 59101.” Investigation determined Classic Plating was located at 2237 Main Street in Billings.



March 21, 2011
Fromdahl was charged with 4 counts of violating RCRA {2 counts - 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(1) - knowingly transports or causing to be transported any hazardous waste; and 2 counts - 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(2)(A) - knowingly treats, stores, or disposes of any hazardous waste ... without a permit}.

CITATION: 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(1), 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(2)(A)
June 14, 2011
Fromdahl pled guilty to all counts.


NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Department of Justice
District of Montana
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2011

ROBERT DARREN FROMDAHL PLEADS GUILTY IN U.S. FEDERAL COURT

The United States Attorney’s Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on June 14, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, ROBERT DARREN FROMDAHL, a 46-year-old resident of Billings, pled guilty to transporting hazardous waste to an unpermitted facility and storing hazardous waste without a permit. Sentencing has been set for October 17, 2011. He is currently released on special conditions.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris A. McLean, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

On June 6, 2010, a Wolf Point area rancher reported to the Valley County Sheriff’s Office that he had found approximately 45 drums of unknown substances on land he was leasing from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation tribal government. The Valley County HAZMAT team responded to the site and found 44, 55-gallon drums, some of which were marked “sulphuric acid,” “caustic potash,” and “caustic soda beads.” The team took three samples from the pile of drums. These samples were tested and determined to have a pH of less than 2, making them highly corrosive.

Based on these results, on June 23, 2010, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emergency Response Unit was dispatched from Denver to conduct further sampling and clean up the site. At that time, the owner of the property where the drums were located was interviewed by EPA-CID agents. During this interview, the owner stated that sometime between August and October 2009, FROMDAHL had approached him and offered $500 to store the barrels on his property. The owner described FROMDAHL bringing the barrels on a trailer towed behind FROMDAHL’s pickup truck. FROMDAHL told the owner the drums contained salt water, nickel and possibly some zine, but nothing hazardous or toxic. The owner stated that shortly after FROMDAHL left the drums on his property, he received two Moneygram wire transfers from FROMDAHL’s father, totaling $500. The owner gave written consent for EPA to enter his property, sample and remove the drums.

EPA found a total of 74 containers on the site. Analysis of sampling of these containers revealed that 28 of them contained substances with a pH of less than 2 and 4 had a pH of greater than 12–the characteristic of a corrosive hazardous waste. EPA also found a drum with a label that stated “Classic Plating, 2146 Old Hardin Road, Billings, MT 59101.” Investigation determined Classic Plating was located at 2237 Main Street in Billings.

On November 16, 2010, EPA-CID executed a federal search warrant at Classic Plating. During the search, it was discovered the business had recently shut down operations and sold the plating equipment and chemicals to a company from Rapid City, South Dakota. While executing the search warrant agents interviewed FROMDAHL. During this interview, FROMDAHL provided information concerning his knowledge of the drums found on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. FROMDAHL admitted that he originally moved the drums from Classic Plating to a family farm north of Wolf Point approximately three years prior to the interview. FROMDAHL explained that he moved the drums because he did not know what to do with them as they contained hazardous materials. FROMDAHL explained further that he and another person moved the drums from the family farm to the tribal property approximately one year prior to the interview.

During the interviews, agents learned that the business records of Classic Plating were stored at the FROMDAHL residence in Billings. Agents obtained a federal search warrant for this residence and executed it immediately. During the execution of this search warrant, agents found a receipt showing the rental of a trailer and a Bobcat loader on September 16, 2009. FROMDAHL’s father confirmed that this was the receipt for the trailer and Bobcat used by FROMDAHL to move the drums from the family farm to the tribal property.

FROMDAHL’s father also told agents he had wired $500 to build a shed to store the drums. EPA-CID agents interviewed another witness on January 11, 2011. During the interview, the witness described assisting FROMDAHL move the drums from the family farm to the tribal property in great detail. The witness stated that FROMDAHL did not tell him what was in the drums. The witness described that during his efforts to move one drum, some of the substance inside splashed onto his hands and started burning him. He wiped his hands on his pants and it began burning his legs to the point that he had to remove his pants. The witness stated the burning eventually stopped, but his hands were stained yellow for days. FROMDAHL told the witness the substance was a weak acid.

A specialist with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality summarized the results of EPA’s sampling and cleanup of the site: 74 various sized containers found on the tribal property contained 1,801 gallons of waste, of that 1,258 gallons were determined to be hazardous waste. As such, Classic Plating was required to obtain a permit to store or transport these materials. The specialist checked the appropriate databases and determined that Classic Plating and FROMDAHL had not obtained the required permit to transport and/or store these materials on the Classic Plating facility, the family farm north of Wolf Point and/or the tribal property.

FROMDAHL faces possible penalties of 5 years in prison, a $50,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.

The investigation was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division.


October 19, 2011
Fromdahl was sentenced to 180 days incarceration, 36 months probation and ordered to pay $51,594 in restitution for the cleanup and disposal of the waste.

May 17, 2012
Black Eagle was charged with violating RCRA {42 U.S.C. 6928(d)()2)(A) - knowingly treats, stores or disposes of any hazardous waste...without a permit}.

November 5, 2012
Black Eagle pled guilty to the RCRA violations and was sentenced to 24 months probation, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, pay a $100 special assessment and $51,504 in restitution, jointly and severely with Fromdahl.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 05, 2012

Matthew Black Eagle Sentenced in U.S. District Court

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on November 5, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, MATTHEW BLACK EAGLE, a 48-year-old resident of Wolf Point, appeared for sentencing. BLACK EAGLE was sentenced to a term of: Probation: 2 years Special Assessment: $100 Restitution: $51,594.08 Community Service: 100 hours

BLACK EAGLE was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to storing hazardous waste without a permit.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris A. McLean, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

On June 6, 2010, a Wolf Point area rancher reported to the Valley County Sheriff's Office that he had found approximately 45 drums of unknown substances on land he was leasing from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation tribal government. The Valley County HAZMAT team responded to the site and found (44) 55-gallon drums, some of which were marked, "sulphuric acid," "caustic potash," and "caustic soda beads." The team took three samples from the pile of drums. These samples were tested and determined to have a pH of less than 2, making them highly corrosive.

On June 23, 2010, based on these results, an EPA Emergency Response Unit was dispatched from EPA's Region 8 office in Denver to conduct further sampling and clean up the site. At that time, BLACK EAGLE, the owner of the property where the drums were located, was interviewed by EPA-CID agents. During the interview, BLACK EAGLE stated that sometime between August and October 2009, Darren Fromdahl had approached him and offered $500 to store the barrels on his property. BLACK EAGLE further described Fromdahl bringing the barrels on a trailer towed behind Fromdahl's pickup truck. BLACK EAGLE stated that shortly after Fromdahl left the drums on his property, he received two Moneygram wire transfers from Fromdahl's father, totaling $500. BLACK EAGLE denied knowing the materials were hazardous.

EPA found a total of 74 containers on the site. Analysis of samplings of these containers revealed that 28 of them contained substances with a pH of less than 2 and 4 had a pH of greater than 12-the characteristic of a corrosive hazardous waste. EPA also found a drum with a label that stated "Classic Plating, 2146 Old Hardin Road, Billings, MT 59101." Investigation determined Classic Plating was located at 2237 Main Street, Billings, Montana.

On November 16, 2010, EPA-CID executed a federal search warrant at Classic Plating. During the search, it was discovered the business had recently shut down operations and sold the plating equipment and chemicals to a company from Rapid City, South Dakota. While executing the search warrant agents interviewed Darren Fromdahl. Fromdahl stated that he originally moved the drums from Classic Plating to a family farm north of Wolf Point approximately three years prior to the interview. Fromdahl explained that he moved the drums because he did not know what to do with them as they contained hazardous materials. Fromdahl stated that he and another person moved the drums from the family farm to the tribal property approximately one year prior to the interview.

Fromdahl pled guilty to transporting these hazardous wastes and cooperated with law enforcement. During an interview as part of his cooperation, Fromdahl stated that BLACK EAGLE inquired several times during the unloading process on his land whether the materials were toxic. Fromdahl repeatedly told BLACK EAGLE the materials were mostly toxic acid copper. BLACK EAGLE then demanded money from Fromdahl for storing the materials on his property. Fromdahl explained the two Moneygram wire transfers BLACK EAGLE received from Fromdahl's father, totaling $500, were in payment of BLACK EAGLE's demand.

A Montana DEQ hazardous waste specialist summarized the results of EPA's sampling and cleanup of the site: 74 various sized containers found on the tribal property contained 1,801 gallons of waste, of that 1,258 gallons were determined to be hazardous waste. As such, a permit would be required to store and/or transport these materials. A Montana DEQ employee checked the appropriate databases and determined that BLACK EAGLE was not licensed to operate a treatment, storage and disposal facility (TSDF) nor was the subject property listed as a TSDF in the State of Montana.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that BLACK EAGLE will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, BLACK EAGLE does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

The investigation was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division.


STATUTE:
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Top of page