New York Attorney General Letitia James and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the indictment of Cross Tie Disposal, Inc. (Cross Tie), a Kentucky-based freight shipping and trucking company, and its Vice President, Harold Young, 48, for illegally dumping contaminated railroad ties treated with hazardous materials in Chenango County and creating fake scale tickets to conceal the illegal disposal. As outlined in today’s 42-count indictment, Cross Tie and Young are charged with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, 30 counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and 11 counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety, or the Environment in the Third Degree. If convicted, Young faces up to 5 to 15 years in state prison and fines of more than $1 million.
“Failing to properly dispose hazardous materials jeopardizes the health of New Yorkers and our environment,” said Attorney General James. “Harold Young and his company allegedly disregarded public health and the law in their pursuit of profit. This type of conduct will never be permitted in our state, and anyone who attempts to put our neighborhoods in harm’s way will be held accountable. My office will continue to use every tool at its disposal to derail fraud and stop these bad actors dead in their tracks.”
“New York state will never tolerate the illegal dumping of hazardous materials,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “This joint enforcement action by DEC law enforcement officers and investigators from Attorney General James’ office is another example of how New York will continue to hold polluters accountable for their blatant disregard of our environmental laws in Chenango County and in any corner of the state.”
Today’s charges are the result of a joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In 2015, the County of Chenango Industrial Development Agency (IDA) created the Chenango County Rail Revitalization project to repair and improve railroad tracks in Chenango County. The IDA selected Frontier Railroad Services, LLC (Frontier), a railroad contractor based in Pennsylvania, to oversee the project. In February 2016, Frontier hired Cross Tie as a subcontractor to properly dispose of old cross ties, which are hazardous old wood beams that hold railroad tracks in place and ensure there is proper distance between rails. The cross ties contain a variety of wood preservatives called creosote, which comes from the high temperature treatment of wood and coal tar. In 2008, the New York state Phase-out of Creosote Law banned the manufacturing, sale, and use of creosote and required all products containing it to be disposed of in a landfill permitted by DEC.
Cross Tie was supposed to dispose of this waste at a specific regulated site in Erie County, but under the supervision and direction of Young, it instead allegedly dumped the contaminated railroad ties on a property in Chenango County. To conceal this illegal disposal, Young allegedly created 30 fraudulent receipts, known as scale tickets, to falsely show that the ties were properly disposed at a facility in Erie County. Relying on these fake tickets, Frontier paid Cross Tie more than $50,000 for the disposal, unaware that the railroad ties were illegally dumped on a Chenango County property.
In March 2020, DEC officers, accompanied by OAG detectives, collected samples of the railroad ties that were dumped in Chenango County while they were testing for the presence of hazardous substances. Subsequent laboratory analysis revealed that the ties were contaminated with more than 100 gallons each of 11 different hazardous substances.
Pursuant to New York Environmental Conservation Law, it is illegal to release hazardous substances that may enter the environment. According to DEC’s regulations, a substance is hazardous if it may cause physical injury or illness in humans, a potential threat to the environment, or a demonstrated threat to biological life cycles when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed. In order to prevent potential harm from hazardous substances, they can only be legally disposed of at a DEC-permitted solid waste management facility. The DEC requires solid waste management facilities to follow strict guidelines to avoid potentially harmful impacts to public health and the environment, and it is illegal to operate such a facility without first obtaining a permit from the agency. According to DEC records, the Chenango County property was not lawfully permitted to accept railroad ties for disposal.
Today’s indictment charges both Young and Cross Tie with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a Class C felony) in violation of Penal Law § 155.40(1); 30 counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (a Class E felony) in violation of Penal Law § 175.10; and 11 counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety, or the Environment in the Third Degree (a Class E felony) in violation of ECL §71-2712(4). If convicted, Young faces up to 5 to 15 years in state prison and fines totaling more than $1 million.
Young and Cross Tie were arraigned today in Chenango County Court. Young was released to the Chenango County Pre-Trial Release Program. Young and Cross Tie are scheduled to appear in court on April 18, 2022.
The charges against Young and Cross Tie are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Any New Yorker who witnesses an environmental crime is encouraged to contact DEC’s 24-hour Poacher and Polluter hotline at 1-844-332-3267.
Attorney General James wishes to thank DEC for their invaluable assistance in this investigation, including Lieutenants Neil Stevens and Dave DiPasquale; Investigators Claude Stephens, Matt Harger, Ed Piwko, and Robert Johnson; and DEC Chemist Malissa Kramer.
The OAG investigation was conducted by Detective Joel Cordone, Detective Supervisor Richard Doyle, and Deputy Chief Investigator Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes.
The OAG case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Andrew J. Tarkowski and Hugh L. McLean, with the assistance of Senior Analyst Joseph Conniff, Deputy Supervising Analyst Jayleen Garcia, and Supervising Analyst Paul Strocko. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph D’Arrigo. CEFC is a part of the Division for Criminal Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.