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Wanted: Environmental Fugitives

They probably won’t appear on the next episode of "America’s Most Wanted," but the federal government has launched an environmental ...

December 10, 2008

They probably won’t appear on the next episode of "America’s Most Wanted," but the federal government has launched an environmental crimes fugitive website: http://www.epa.gov/fugitives. It’s now available to enlist the public and other law enforcement agencies in tracking down fugitives accused of violating environmental laws and evading arrest.

"Putting this information on the EPA’s website will increase the number of ‘eyes’ looking for environmental fugitives," said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Two EPA fugitives were captured this year, and this website could help us find more fugitives in the future."

The website includes photos of the accused, summaries of their alleged environmental violations, 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.

One of the 23 current fugitives is Mauro Valenzuela, 39, a former mechanic for Sabertech.  Among his several charges, 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 website also lists EPA’s captured fugitives.  Earlier this year, EPA found two men on the run. David Allen 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.

Anyone who encounters a fugitive should notify EPA by submitting the "Report a Fugitive" form on the website. The information will be electronically sent to EPA’s national criminal investigation office in Washington, D.C. The public may also choose to report the information to their local police or, if outside the United States, to the nearest U.S. Embassy. Some fugitives may be armed and dangerous, and EPA warns the public against trying to apprehend them. 

Many of the alleged violators listed on the website have fled the country. EPA depends on cooperation with Interpol and other international law enforcement agencies to locate their whereabouts.

The FBI, U.S. Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also maintain websites featuring fugitives from the law, but EPA is the first federal law enforcement agency to feature an environmental crimes fugitive website. 

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