Orange County District Attorney Files Criminal Charges Against Ultra Wheel Corporation For Multiple Hazardous Waste Violations

For Immediate Release
September 30th, 2002
Contact: Environmental Protection Agency
Deputy District Attorney
Scott Zidbeck (714) 347-8719
Nick Thompson (714) 347-8714

Orange County District Attorney Files Criminal Charges Against Ultra Wheel Corporation For Multiple Hazardous Waste Violations

SANTA ANA – The Environmental Protection Unit of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has filed criminal charges against the Ultra Wheel Corporation, a manufacturer of custom chrome wheels based in Buena Park.  The corporate owner and four top level managers have been charged with dumping hazardous waste into both the sewer system and directly into the environment via the Coyote Creek flood control channel.

The defendants are charged with twelve (12) counts of dumping hazardous waste into the sewer system between October 11, 2000 and October 21, 2000.  The defendants are also charged with five (5) counts of various Water Code and Penal Code violations for dumping hazardous waste into the Coyote Creek flood control channel between November 16, 1999 and September 6, 2001.  The charges were filed today and the defendants are expected to surrender on warrants issued for their arrest tomorrow, October 1st.

The following defendants have been named in the case:  Ultra Wheel Corporation; Corporate Owner James Aaron Smith, 55; Plant Manager, Michael William Schott, 31; Quality Assurance Manager Paul Edward Mayashich, 33; and Production Manager Gerardo Carlos Welti, 49.

The complaint alleges that between October 11, 2000 and October 21, 2000, the defendants dumped heavy metals (copper and nickel) and acids – both residual wastes from the wheel plating operation – to the sewer at hazardous waste levels.  The complaint also alleges the defendants dumped similar wastes into the storm drain system, which discharges directly into the environment through the Coyote Creek.  The defendants are also accused of dumping high levels of machine coolants and other hydrocarbons directly into Coyote Creek.

The defendants face a maximum penalty of eleven (11) years and six (6) months in state prison and more than one (1) million dollars in fines if convicted of all counts.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas stated: “Prosecutions against polluters protects the environment, the public – especially children, the most vulnerable of our citizens.  Furthermore, it shows businesses that violating the law does not pay.”

The filing of charges concludes a cooperative, 2-year, multi-agency investigation coordinated by the District Attorney’s Office Investigations Bureau.  The investigation was initiated by the Orange County Sanitation District, in conjunction with the Orange County Health Care Agency, the Orange County Public Facilities and Resources Department, the Orange County Fire Authority, the Los Angeles Sanitation District, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control, and South Coast Air Quality Management District, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency – CID.