Environmental Law

Fracking company owner pleads guilty to dumping waste in Ohio river

The former owner of a Youngstown, Ohio, oil-and-gas drilling business who ordered an employee to pump tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a river pleaded guilty today in federal court in Cleveland, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Benedict Lupo faces up to three years in prison, and payments which could exceed $3 million in restitution and as much as $1 million in fines.

The guilty plea did not result from a plea bargain and a federal prosecutor said he will seek the maximum prison sentence.

Lupo’s plea came on the heels of the sentencing last week of the former employee he ordered to pump the fracking waste, Michael Guesman. Guesman, who did enter a plea agreement that called for him to testify against Lupo, received three years’ probation.

Lupo had Guesman dump the waste on at least 20 occasions, after other employees had gone for the day. Acting on an anonymous tip to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, state agents watched Guesman dump the water and mud containing hazardous chemicals such as benzene and toluene into a tributary of the Mahoning River, the Plain Dealer reported at his guilty plea last summer.

Lupo’s sentencing is scheduled for June 16. Lupo’s company, Hardrock Excavating, went out of business in February 2013 when the state permanently revoked its operating license, according to the Business Journal.

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