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Texas and Mexican Men Arrested on Charges of Illegal Importation of Hazardous Waste into the U.S.

Release Date: 03/06/2003
Contact Information:

Teresa Libera 202-564-7873/

(03/06/03) Encon Environmental Services of El Paso, Texas; Encon’s owners, Roberto Loya of El Paso and Jesus Audelio Uribe Franco of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Victor Manuel Arroyo Balderas, warehouse coordinator of Encon, Raul Chavez Beltran; and Ramon Martinez Altamirano of El Paso, Texas; were named in an indictment, unsealed on Feb. 13 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in El Paso. Loya, Altamirano, Franco and Balderas were subsequently arrested. The indictment charges violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act when the five men and Encon participated in a scheme resulting in the illegal importation of hazardous waste into the United States. The indictment alleges Encon, Beltran and Franco developed a business relationship, in about 1995, with Loya to illegally import hazardous wastes, including soil contaminated with mercury, into the United States without a permit. Altamirano and Balderas allegedly supported the illegal operation. The defendants allegedly informed companies that had hired Encon to dispose of hazardous wastes that the wastes were being disposed of in a legal manner. Instead, the charges state that the wastes were illegally stored in a warehouse in El Paso. Failing to properly dispose of mercury- containing wastes can lead to human contact with mercury which, in sufficient amounts, can cause brain damage and other illnesses. The case was investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division Dallas Area Office, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Texas Environmental Task Force. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in El Paso. An indictment is merely an accusation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.