Lawfuel – Legal Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), John W. Long, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Lee Quintyne, Special Agent in Charge, General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General, Col Graham W. Fountain, Director, Florida Department of Transportation, Motor Carrier Compliance Office, and Sheriff Ken Jenne, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, announced that on June 28, 2007, the Honorable William J. Zloch, United States District Court Judge in Fort Lauderdale, adjudicated Genesis Petroleum, Inc. guilty of conspiring to commit wire fraud and failing to properly placard, store, transport, transfer, and handle hazardous materials by stealing and converting interstate shipments of fuel loaded at fuel terminals at Port Everglades, Florida, for delivery to customers, in order to enrich themselves, and submitted false fuel delivery claims through the use of wire instrumentalities of interstate commerce, and violated the applicable provisions of the federal Hazardous Material Transportation Act, which specified how shipments of flammable liquids were to be transferred, stored, placarded, and handled, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 1343, and Title 49, United States Code, Section 5104(b).
Today’s action represented the conviction of the last of nine defendants charged in the case, all of whom were charged with the same offenses. Each of the individual defendants entered a guilty plea over the course of the past two months. They are: Ricardo Aristides Mejia, 45, of North Miami, Director of Genesis Petroleum, Inc., and seven employees of the company, including Roberto Muniz, 37, of Deerfield Beach, Yoel Betancourt, 36, of Miami, Alberto Alvarez, 37, of Hialeah, Leonel SanMartin, 42, of Miami Lakes, Noel Delgado-Hernandez, 35, of Miami, Dalayn Gonzalez-Linares, 26, of Hialeah Gardens; and Tomas V. Valdivia, 41, of Brownsville, Texas.
Sentencing dates have been set in August and September for each of the defendants before Judge Zloch in Fort Lauderdale. The individual defendants each face a possible term of imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, a term of supervised release of up to three years, and may be ordered to make restitution to the victims of their criminal conduct. Genesis may be fined up to $500,000, be ordered to serve a term of probation of up to five years, and be required to pay restitution to the victims.
According to an Affidavit accompanying the complaint and search warrants issued by the Court, and a Factual Proffer executed by all the parties, Genesis Petroleum, Inc., a Florida corporation using an address in north east Miami, was the operator of a series of commercial tanker trucks that hauled gasoline and diesel fuel to customers in areas ranging from Fort Pierce to Key West. The trips were scheduled by a Gainesville, Georgia-based company, which paid Genesis for its cartage services.
Enforcement authorities received information that Genesis drivers were making fuel deliveries into a modified 40′ shipping container on private property near Port Everglades and Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. This container had been leased by the company President, defendant Mejia. Surveillance of the container revealed deliveries were being made by the drivers into two concealed storage tanks inside the container, and subsequent withdrawals from the tanks into the Genesis tanker truck fuel tanks, personal vehicles of Genesis employees, commercial vehicles, gas containers, and other private vehicles. The container was not equipped with safety placards, and met none of the safety requirements imposed on commercial fuel dispensers. In mid-August 2006, the shipping container was moved to an industrial yard in Davie, Florida, and the same pattern of deliveries and withdrawals continued.
During the course of the investigation, dubbed “Operation Rolaids,” Task Force agents observed fuel being delivered into the shipping container storage tank, and then subsequent deliveries of fuel to customers. Investigators were able to secure the assistance of several of the victims of the fuel diversion scheme, who identified losses of fuel as high as 8,000 gallons over the course of multiple Genesis deliveries.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General, General Services Administration-Office of Inspector General, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Environmental Protection, Internal Revenue Service, Broward County Department of Planning & Environmental Protection, Broward County Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services, Broward County Fire Marshalls, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Mr. Acosta also thanked the members of the public that cooperated with the task force during the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Lynn Rosenthal.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/.