A federal grand jury issued a 12-count indictment that accuses a Fontana company, its owner and three employees of regularly dumping acidic industrial wastewater into the sewer system, officials announced.
This was in violation of the Clean Water Act. The company also tampered with the monitoring devices designed to prevent those violations.
The indictment, which was returned by the grand jury last week, charges:
· Starlight Reclamation Environmental Services, Inc.
· Christopher Jaramillo, 47, of Victorville, the owner and president of Starlight
· Robert Conn, 74, of Torrance, a former Starlight Vice President who was responsible for overseeing wastewater treatment;
· Andrew Hucks, 29, formerly of Riverside and now residing in another state, a former Starlight employee who acted as a plant operator.
· Fernando Torres, 40, formerly of San Bernardino and now believed to be residing in the Central Valley, another former plant operator at Starlight.
The Fontana-based Starlight treated and disposed of industrial wastewater.
According to the indictment, the company and the individual defendants repeatedly discharged acidic wastewater into a sewer system operated by the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, and, ultimately, by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, from November 2014 through June 2015.
While Starlight was required to monitor the wastewater it discharged into the sewer, the indictment alleges.
The defendants attempted to avoid detection of the illegal discharges by placing monitoring devices in buckets of clean water. As a result of this tampering, the monitors created records that showed the discharges were within legal limits, according to the indictment.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
The indictment filed last week supersedes an indictment returned by another federal grand jury in June 2015. The initial indictment charged only Conn with 12 counts of violating the Clean Water Act.
Conn previously plead not guilty to the charges in that indictment.
In relation to the superseding indictment, the five defendants will be summoned to appear in United States District Court for arraignments in May.
If convicted, the four defendants face up to 54 years in prison. Starlight is facing up to $6 million in fines.