EPA Web site targets Most Wanted Environmental Fugitives

It might not have the scary folks on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list but the Environmental Protection Agency says it wants its new Web tool to have the same sort of impact: tracking down fugitives accused of violating environmental laws.

The Web site - the first of its kind in the Federal realm to list environmental fugitives -- includes photos of accused environmental violators, summaries of their alleged environmental encroachments, and information on each fugitive's last known whereabouts. The alleged violations include smuggling of ozone-depleting substances, illegally disposing of hazardous waste, discharging pollutants into the air and water, laundering money and making criminally false statements.

For example, the site currently lists 23 fugitives including Mauro Valenzuela, 39, a former mechanic for Sabertech. According the EPA site, Valenzuela is alleged to have illegally transported hazardous materials on a commercial aircraft. In 1996, Valenzuela allegedly transported waste oxygen generators onboard ValuJet flight 592 without proper markings and other safety measures. The jet crashed, killing all 110 passengers and crew onboard. Valenzuela failed to appear in federal court nine years ago.

The Web site also lists fugitives it has captured. For example, earlier this year David Phillips escaped prison four years ago after being convicted of Clean Water Act crimes in Montana. He fled to Mexico, was turned over to authorities by the Mexican government last March, and awaits further sentencing. David Ortiz fled after the appeal of his conviction for Clean Water Act crimes in 2004. He remained at large for almost four years until his capture last March in Colorado and is currently in prison.

The agency administers and enforces statutes such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The EPA said that violations are those that are deliberate and not the product of accident or mistake. Knowledge of the specific statutes or regulations that prohibit the wrongful conduct is not required. When a violator is aware that the wrongful conduct is prohibited by law, the violation is said to be "willful," and the EPA will then take action. The EPA said it depends on cooperation with Interpol and other international law enforcement agencies to locate their whereabouts.

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