An official with an Upper Marlboro trash-hauling operation that did business across the region has been sentenced in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to five months in prison and fined $30,000 for filing false claims against the Navy, which had contracted with the firm to dispose of solid waste.
The two companies that Michael W. Stevens helped run, A.W. Stevens and Sons Waste Disposal Systems Inc., of Upper Marlboro, and St. Mary's Disposal Systems Inc., of California, also were ordered to pay $1.3 million in federal criminal fines and publish a public apology in full-page advertisements in local newspapers.
In accordance with a plea agreement, the companies also will pay a federal civil penalty of $2 million and fines of $80,000 each to St. Mary's County and Prince George's County, funds that will be used for litter control efforts.
In addition, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Stevens, 46, of Annapolis, to five months of home detention with electronic monitoring after he completes his prison term.
The sentence and fines stem from a case in which the two Maryland trash companies owned by the same family pleaded guilty in June to federal and state criminal charges, admitting that they defrauded the Navy by illegally shipping garbage to Virginia that they were supposed to deposit in Maryland or take to a District trash transfer station.
On June 15, officials with the two companies--which have been sold and are no longer owned and run by the Stevens family--pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to 17 federal charges. Among the charges were conspiracy, filing false claims and violating the Clean Water Act.
On the same day that they pleaded guilty to the federal charges, officials with the two firms pleaded guilty in Prince George's County Circuit Court and St. Mary's County Circuit Court to violating state anti-littering laws.
According to a statement of facts presented in federal court in June, the two firms held federal contracts from 1972 to 1997 to dispose of garbage from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary's County and the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center in Charles County.
The contracts called for the companies to dump the garbage in landfills in Maryland or take it to the District transfer station. Instead, the companies hauled the trash to Virginia to take advantage of significantly lower waste disposal fees there, according to the statement of facts.
Without legitimate receipts from Maryland or the District, the trash company officials submitted substitute or falsified dump tickets to the Navy, along with their invoices, to get paid for their waste disposal services, according to the statement of facts.
In addition, the A.W. Stevens company knowingly discharged pollutants from its truck-washing operations into a tributary of Henson Creek in Prince George's, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, the court papers said.
Federal prosecutors said that Michael Stevens is the only defendant expected to receive prison time.
The other company officials who pleaded guilty in June were Albert W. Stevens, 67, of Annapolis; Susan Goolsby Stevens, 46; and Patrick T. Stevens.
The investigation was conducted by federal, state and local officials as part of the Prince George's County Environmental Crimes Task Force. The case was presented in federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Howard of the U.S. attorney's environmental crimes unit.
Reports from residents to the Prince George's County Department of Public Health about bad smells emanating from property owned by A.W. Stevens and Sons at 7910 Penn Randall Pl. near Forestville sparked the investigation, officials said.