A West Los Angeles man pleaded guilty today to five environmental crimes related to a conspiracy that improperly stored and transported dangerous chemicals, primarily the dry cleaning solvent known as PERC.
Behzad Kahoolyzadeh, 47, who also used the names Behzad Cohen and David Cohen, pleaded guilty today in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Kahoolyzadeh pleaded guilty to conspiracy, two counts of illegally transportation of hazardous waste and two counts of illegally storing hazardous waste.
The guilty pleas were announced today by Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, and Debra W. Yang, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles.
Kahoolyzadeh and two co-defendants were associated with a company called
AAD Distribution and Dry Cleaning Services, Inc., which was based in Vernon. AAD was one of the largest handlers of dry cleaning waste in California until it was shut down in January 2001. The company charged dry cleaners to pick up, treat and arrange for the disposal of a hazardous dry cleaning compound called perchloroethylene or PERC, a cancer-causing chemical that is the number one contaminant of groundwater in Southern California.
According to a plea agreement filed in this case, Kahoolyzadeh began negotiating to purchase the company from president Homayoun “Harry” Pourat and vice president Hormoz Pourat in January 2000. At that time, the AAD facility had been cited repeatedly by state and city inspectors for storing more hazardous waste than was allowed under the facility’s hazardous waste permit. To hide additional permit violations from inspectors, Kahoolyzadeh joined the Pourat brothers and ordered AAD employees and others to load drums filled with PERC waste onto trucks, transport them off-site, and then store them at other facilities, including sites in Chino and Paramount, that were not permitted to store hazardous wastes.
The clean-up costs for AAD and the other facilities that were illegally storing AAD PERC wastes totaled more than $1 million.
“The defendant and his partners engaged in long-term and elaborate schemes to hide their violations from city and state inspectors so that they could continue to make a profit at their customers’ expense,” said Assistant Attorney General Sansonetti. “But their schemes ultimately failed.”
Kahoolyzadeh pleaded guilty before United States Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on August 24. Kahoolyzadeh faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for each of the five felony charges. He could also be fined up to $250,000 for each violation and ordered to pay restitution for the cleanup costs at AAD and other facilities.
Hormoz Pourat, 45, of Encino, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced by United States District Judge Consuelo B. Marshal on December 2, 2003 to 37 months in prison. Homayoun Pourat fled to Scotland after indictment and committed suicide in February 2003.
“The E.P.A. and other agencies regulate the transportation and storage of hazardous wastes for a reason – they are dangerous chemicals that can harm the environment and human health,” said United States Attorney Yang. “Ignoring our nation’s environmental laws can lead to serious injury and can land the perpetrators in prison.
“My office, through the Environmental Crimes Sections, is dedicated to pursuing these types of cases with an eye toward protecting this country’s land, water and air.”
The case was investigated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigations Division; the United States Department of Transportation; the California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control; the City of Vernon; and the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office.