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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Four Whistle-Blowers Divide $250,000 In Case Involving Illegal Oil Dumping at Sea

The U.S. Department of Justice announced May 20 that it had presented $250,000 to four Filipino seamen who informed authorities about the illegal dumping of oil waste along the California coast from a Maltese-flagged cargo ship named M/V Katerina.

According to the account of the payment in BNA’s Daily Environment Report, Jonathan Sanchez, Jimmy Piamonte, Florencio Tolentino, and Richard Santillan received the cash awards at a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. The U.S. attorney for the Central District of California said Sanchez, Piamonte, and Tolentino received $75,000 each and Santillan received $25,000.

In August 2004, the four men told U.S. Coast Guard officials in Los Angeles about a pipe the Katerina crew used to illegally discharge oil waste into the ocean.

International and federal environmental laws prohibit the discharge of the oil waste and require ships to use anti-pollution equipment to separate oil from waste water. According to statements by the four men, the Coast Guard learned that the Athens-based owner of the ship, DST Shipping Inc., and the ship’s captain instructed crew to use the bypass pipe to discharge the waste and then hide the pipe while in port.

The information resulted in criminal charges being filed against the company and the captain, chief engineer, and one other crew member.

Each of the defendants negotiated plea agreements with federal prosecutors and admitted they had instructed crew to use the bypass pipe and that they had concealed the illegal activity from authorities. They pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and at hearings held in March and April were sentenced to eight months in prison.

The company also entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors. It admitted the Katerina crew had dumped oil waste into the ocean several times over a six-month period in 2004 and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

At a March 2 hearing in federal court in Los Angeles, DST Shipping was ordered to pay $1 million and sentenced to four years of probation.

Posted by Qui Tam Help Admin on 05/24 at 01:55 PM
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