They've made appearances in the news and now, environmental fugitives are among the government's most sought after alleged criminals.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its own "wanted" list, which currently contains the names, vital stats and mug shots of 21 people on the run from justice for allegedly participating in environmental crimes ranging from smuggling pollutants to illegally dumping them.
"We take them seriously, and there are serious consequences," Doug Parker, deputy director of the EPA's criminal investigation division, told The New York Times today. The newspaper wrote a feature about the enviro most-wanted list after the agency added its 21st fugitive, Albania Deleon, 39, to it last week.
In November, Deleon—who ran the Methuen, Mass.–based asbestos-removal training company Environmental Compliance Training—was convicted of fraud in federal court in Boston for falsely claiming that workers were certified in asbestos removal. But she failed to show up for her sentencing hearing last month, according to the EPA.
Parker told the Times that 180 EPA agents are "fully authorized with arrest powers, carrying firearms." Most of the time, he said, EPA works with law enforcement at the state, local and federal levels, and with the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and Interpol to catch enviro fugitives.
Two fugitives have been captured since the EPA established the list in December. One of them, Larkin Baggett, was shot and arrested last month after EPA officials got a tip on his whereabouts. Baggett, 53, the owner of a Utah chemical company, illegally dumped sulfuric acids, hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acids (corrosive chemicals that can in some cases contribute to acid rain), the EPA says. A spokesperson for the agency, Dave Ryan, said he didn’t know Baggett's status and refused to comment further. A representative for Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where Baggett was taken after the March 10 shooting, said she couldn't comment on his condition.
The other fugitive, Bhavesh Kamdar, 42, surrendered in February. An environmental consultant for New York State, Kamdar has been indicted in federal court in Buffalo, N.Y., for alleged money laundering. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment February 19 and is free on $1-million bond.
"Putting this information on the EPA's Web site will increase the number of 'eyes' looking for environmental fugitives," Granta Nakayama, former assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement when the agency announced the "most wanted" program late last year. The Daily Green blog has a slide show of the fugitives and their alleged crimes.
Image of Larkin Baggett/EPA