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FISCAL YEAR: 2013
1. PRINCIPAL DEFENDANT: Watkins Street Project, LLC
E.D.  Tennessee  1:09-CR-144
2. DEFENDANT: David Wayne Wood
E.D.  Tennessee  1:09-CR-144
3. DEFENDANT: Donald Gene Fillers
E.D.  Tennessee  1:09-CR-144
4. DEFENDANT: Gary Fillers
E.D.  Tennessee  1:09-CR-144
5. DEFENDANT: James Franklin Mathis
E.D.  Tennessee  1:09-CR-144


The defendants were involved in salvage and demolition activities at the former Standard Coosa Thatcher plant. More specifically, the evidence proved that the defendants entered into a year-long scheme in which the plant was illegally demolished while still containing extensive amounts of asbestos. Additionally, the defendants hired day laborers and paid them low wages to improperly remove asbestos-containing materials without following federal regulations that were intended to keep the asbestos, a known carcinogen, from becoming airborne where it could be inhaled.



August 25, 2009
The defendants were charged with violating the CAA {42 U.S.C. 7412 - conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act}.

In addition to the CAA count, Donald Fillers was also charged with making false statements, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001; conspiracy, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 and obstruction of justice violation of 18 U.S.C. 1519.

Mathis was also charged with conspiracy.

Watkins Street Project was also charged with conspiracy and obstruction.

Wood was additionally charged with conspiracy.

CITATION: 18 U.S.C. 1001, 18 U.S.C. 1519, 18 USC 2, 42 U.S.C. 7413(c)(1)
March 18, 2010
Gary Fillers pled guilty and was sentenced to 36 months probation, which includes 6 months home detention and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fee. No fine was imposed.
January 27, 2012
The remaining defendants were convicted on the conspiracy charge.


Press Release
Department of Justice
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2012

Three Men and Company Convicted of Conspiracy to Violate the Clean Air Act During Demolition of Tennessee Factory

Chattanooga Plant Containing Large Amounts of Asbestos Was Illegally Demolished, Exposing Community and Workers to Asbestos

WASHINGTON – Three men and a demolition company were convicted by a federal jury in Chattanooga, Tenn., of environmental crimes and obstruction of justice charges related to the illegal demolition of a Chattanooga factory containing large amounts of the toxic air pollutant asbestos, announced William C. Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. David Wood, Donald Fillers, James Mathis and Watkins Street Project LLC, a business formed for the purpose of salvaging and demolishing the facility, were convicted today of conspiracy, Clean Air Act and obstruction-related offenses. James Mathis was found not guilty of one of the Clean Air Act charges, but guilty of conspiracy and three other substantive Clean Air Act counts.

During the course of the three week trial, the evidence proved that the defendants entered into a year-long scheme, from August 2004 to September 2005, in which the former Standard Coosa Thatcher Plant was illegally demolished while still containing large amounts of asbestos. Any asbestos that was removed from the plant prior to demolition was removed illegally, scattered in open debris piles and left exposed to the elements in the vicinity of the 1700 block of Watkins Street in Chattanooga. During the course of these illegal operations, visible emissions engulfed surrounding businesses, residences and a day-care center, potentially exposing the surrounding community to substantial quantities of asbestos – a substance for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined there is no safe-level given its demonstrated tendency to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. The evidence also showed the defendants tried to cover up their illegal activities by falsifying documents and lying to federal authorities.

Sentencing is currently set for June 7, 2012. The conspiracy, substantive Clean Air Act and false statements counts of the indictment each carry a maximum possible term of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, twice the gross gain to the defendants, or twice the gross loss to a victim. The obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum possible term of 20 years in prison and similar fines.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and investigators with Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew T. Morris and Todd W. Gleason, Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

October 1, 2012
The defendants were sentenced as follows:
  • Watkins Street was sentenced to 36 months probation and ordered to pay $30,000 in federal fines and $28,000 in restitution.
  • Donald fillers was sentenced to 48 months incarceration, 36 months probation and ordered to pay $20,000 in federal fines, to be shared with Mathis and Watkins Street.
  • James Mathis was sentenced to 36 months probation.
  • David Wood was sentenced to 20 months incarceration and 36 months probation.


Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 1, 2012

Three Men and One Company Sentenced in Tennessee for Environmental Crimes

WASHINGTON – Three men who conspired to violate Clean Air Act workplace safety standards when they demolished a Chattanooga, Tenn., factory containing large amounts of asbestos were sentenced today in federal court, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource Division, and William C. Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier sentenced David Wood, James Mathis and Donald Fillers, and the Watkins Street Project LLC for their roles in the conspiracy.

Fillers was sentenced to serve 48 months in federal prison, pay a $20,000 fine and serve three years of supervised release; Mathis was sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release; Wood was sentenced to serve 20 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release; and Watkins Street Project was ordered to pay a $30,000 fine. In addition, the defendants were ordered to pay $27,899 in restitution to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Chattanooga Department of Public Works and the Chattanooga Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Board for expenditures associated with the emergency response and clean-up of the former Standard Coosa Thatcher plant in Chattanooga.

A jury convicted these defendants on Jan. 27, 2012, of conspiracy and criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, as well as obstruction of justice in relation to salvage and demolition activities at the former Standard Coosa Thatcher plant. More specifically, the evidence proved that the defendants entered into a year-long scheme in which the plant was illegally demolished while still containing extensive amounts of asbestos. Additionally, the defendants hired day laborers and paid them low wages to improperly remove asbestos-containing materials without following federal regulations that were intended to keep the asbestos, a known carcinogen, from becoming airborne where it could be inhaled.

“These sentences send a strong message that criminal violations of environmental laws designed to protect human health from exposure to hazardous substances, such as asbestos, will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Killian. “Those individuals who choose to place profit over compliance with our nation’s environmental laws will be vigorously prosecuted and brought to justice.”

“Exposure to asbestos can cause serious, even fatal, illnesses so it must be removed safely and in accordance with the law,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Tennessee. “The defendants in this case not only lied to authorities and tried to cover up their actions, but they also hired homeless and untrained workers to perform the illegal asbestos removal activities, endangering both the employees and the greater community. Today’s sentences show that those who break the law and put the public at risk to make illegal profits will face serious consequences.”

Witness testimony established that dust from the salvage and demolition activities frequently wafted onto neighboring properties. The evidence also showed the defendants attempted to cover up their illegal activities by falsifying documents and Wood lied to federal authorities investigating the case.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and investigators with Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew T. Morris and Todd W. Gleason, Trial Attorney with the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

STATUTE:
  • Clean Air Act (CAA)
  • Title 18 U.S. Criminal Code (TITLE 18)

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