A criminal indictment was filed in federal court Wednesday against a Strongsville company, the company owner and his wife for their roles in an alleged conspiracy in which a drum of liquid cyanide was dumped into a storm drain that flowed into the Rocky River.
This action, the government alleges, resulting in the death of more than 30,000 fish, federal and state officials announced today.
Renato Mortorsi, 79, and his company, Kennedy Mint, Inc. are both charged with four counts each: violation of the Clean Water Act, conspiracy, and two counts of obstruction of justice.
Teresina Mortorsi, 74, is charged with three counts: conspiracy and two counts of obstruction of justice.
Renato and Teresina Mortorsi are married and live in Grafton, Ohio, according to public records.
“Clean, fresh water is our greatest resource in Northern Ohio,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
“We will aggressively investigate and prosecute cases in which people pollute Ohio’s streams, rivers and lakes.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said: “This case shows once again how important it is that we work to protect the environment. My office stands ready to work with other agencies to safeguard our state’s natural resources.”
“Our natural resources must be protected from illegal discharges,” also said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio.
“This prosecution sends a clear message that crimes against the environment will not be tolerated and will be vigorously prosecuted.”
Renato Mortorsi operates Kennedy Mint, which is located in Strongsville.
Kennedy Mint specializes in collectible coins, but previously conducted metal plating and printing operations.
The East Branch of the Rocky River is near the Kennedy Mint facility and storm water from that location’s parking lot flows into the East Branch of the Rocky River, according to the indictment.
On April 16, 2012, Mortorsi, with assistance from two individuals, put two drums into a dumpster outside Kennedy Mint.
On April 17, the waste hauling company declined to dispose of the contents of the dumpster because of the two drums inside, according to the indictment.
On April 18, Mortorsi moved the drums from the dumpster and placed them next to the storm drain in the Kennedy Mint parking lot, according to the indictment.
Mortorsi used a hammer and sharp metal tool to punch a hole near the bottom of a drum that included a poison label featuring a skull and cross bones
After punching the hole, liquid cyanide in the drum was discharged into the storm drain and eventually the East Branch of the Rocky River, according to the indictment.
Around April 22, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources received reports of dead fish in the East Branch of the Rocky River.
Ohio Natural Resources officials found dead fish beginning near Bonnie Park.
Downstream for the next three miles, nearly every fish was dead, according to the indictment.
Officers with the Natural Resources Department's Division of Wildlife counted approximately 30,893 dead fish in that three-mile stretch of the river, according to the indictment.
On April 25, personnel from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency asked to enter the Kennedy Mint facility.
Teresina Montorsi stalled the personnel from entering the facility and inspecting the drums while Renato Montorsi hid the punctured drum in the back of the warehouse, according to the indictment.
That day, after Ohio EPA personnel left, the Montorsis moved the punctured drum and another drum containing cyanide to their home, according to the indictment.
On April 27, both Renato and Teresina Montorsi denied knowledge of the location of the punctured drum, according to the indictment.
On May 16, Renato Montorsi was again asked about the location of the punctured drum and again denied knowledge of its location, according to the indictment.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S Attorney Brad J. Beeson and Assistant U.S Attorney Arturo Hernandez following an investigation by the following agencies: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation; the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District; the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Special Investigations; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, and the Cleveland Metroparks Rangers, all members of the Northeast Ohio Environmental Crimes Task Force.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
People can report possible environmental violations to Ohio EPA at 800-282-9378 or U.S. EPA at www.epa.gov/tips
Jeffrey L. Frischkorn@News-Herald.com