Lupo scheduled to change brine-dumping plea

brine-dumping case

By Peter H. Milliken


Ben Lupo, who is charged with violating the Clean Water Act in the dumping of oilfield waste into a Mahoning River tributary, is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing in federal court in Cleveland on Monday.

The court docket entry, posted Tuesday, did not specify whether Lupo, 62, of Poland, will plead guilty or no contest.

Meanwhile, co-defendant Michael P. Guesman, 34, of Cortland, who pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and said he dumped the brine and drilling mud down a storm drain and into the waterway on 24 nights at Lupo’s direction, is to be sentenced at 10 a.m. today.

Guesman’s lawyer, Carolyn M. Kucharski, a Cleveland-based assistant federal public defender, has filed a sealed sentencing memorandum.

She had asked for and received permission from Judge Donald C. Nugent to file that document permanently under seal because she said, without elaboration, that it “contains sensitive information that should not be disclosed to the public.”

The 10:30 a.m. Monday hearing was originally scheduled as the final pretrial conference for Lupo and his company, Hardrock Excavating LLC.

The docket entry did not show what the company’s intentions would be Monday.

Having earlier pleaded not guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, Lupo and his company had been scheduled for a jury trial beginning April 8.

In his written plea agreement, Guesman said he dumped brine and drilling mud down the storm drain from 20,000-gallon storage tanks on Salt Springs Road in Youngstown beginning Dec. 12, 2012.

The U.S. Attorney agreed to recommend favorable consideration for Guesman at his sentencing in exchange for Guesman’s acceptance of responsibility and “substantial assistance” to the prosecution.

The investigation of the case was triggered by a Jan. 31, 2013, discharge that resulted in a massive cleanup of the unnamed tributary and of the Mahoning River, used specialized contractors and cost more than $1 million.

Penalties for those convicted of violating the Clean Water Act range from probation to three years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Lupo is represented by Attys. Joseph W. Gardner of Canfield and Roger M. Synenberg of Cleveland, who declined to comment.

The case is being prosecuted by Brad J. Beeson, a Cleveland-based assistant U.S. Attorney.

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