Prison for “Dirt Broker”

South Bay Resident Sentenced To 30 Months In Prison For Illegal Dumping In Wetlands And Other Protected Waters

OAKLAND CA (2/25/2019) – James Philip Lucero was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for the unpermitted discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States, including wetlands, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Special Agent in Charge Jay M. Green, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, and United States Corps of Engineers Deputy San Francisco District Counsel Jesse L. Anderson. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Haywood S. Gilliam, United States District Judge.

On February 21, 2018, a federal jury convicted Lucero, 59, of Carmel, Calif., of violating the Federal Clean Water Act. The evidence at trial demonstrated Lucero, a self-described “dirt broker,” orchestrated the illegal discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States adjacent to Mowry Slough, part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge located in Newark, Calif. As a dirt broker, Lucero charged a fee to contractors and trucking companies in exchange for providing open space to dump fill material, including construction debris. The defendant caused approximately 1800 industrial-sized truckloads of construction debris and fill material to be dumped on private property containing federally-protected wetland and other waters of the United States, without applying for or obtaining a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the Environmental Protection Agency, or obtaining permission from the landowner. A federal grand jury handed down a Superseding Indictment on January 31, 2017, charging Lucero with causing dirt, soil, and other materials to be discharged from a point source into waters of the United States, including over ten acres of wetlands and more than an acre of other waters of the United States. Lucero was convicted on all three counts of unpermitted filling of wetlands and tributaries, in violation of 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311, 1319(c)(2)(A), and 1344.

“Protecting the long-term health and integrity of San Francisco Bay, including its tributaries, wetlands, connecting waters, and associated plant and wildlife, are of the utmost importance to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson. “Today’s sentence should serve as a stern warning to anyone contemplating taking steps to illegally dump in the waters of the United States.”

“The tidal marsh at issue in this case is protected under both the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899,” said Jay M. Green, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California. “Today’s sentence demonstrates that EPA and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate illegal dumping into waters of the United States.”

In addition to the prison term, Judge Gilliam ordered Lucero to serve twelve months of supervised release upon his release. A hearing to determine the amount restitution has been set for May 28, 2019. Judge Gilliam ordered Lucero to surrender and to begin serving his sentence on April 22, 2019.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip J. Kearney and Shiao C. Lee prosecuted the case with the assistance of paralegals Alycee Lane and Helen Yee. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, and the Newark Police Department.

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