Brine defendants plead not guilty


Tribune Chronicle

YOUNGSTOWN – Two men charged in connection to allegations that they were involved in dumping oilfield waste in the Mahoning watershed told a federal judge Friday morning that they were not guilty.

Benedict W. Lupo, 62, of Poland and his employee, Michael Guesman, 34, of Cortland, are each facing one count of violating the federal Clean Water Act. Also charged is Lupo’s company, Hardrock Excavating.

The men appeared Friday morning with their attorneys before federal Magistrate Judge George Limbert in U.S. District Court in Youngstown.

Other than to plead “not guilty,” the defendants made no statements to the judge or the media.

“There’s always two sides to every story and there’s two sides here,” attorney Joseph Gardner of Canfield, who is representing Lupo, said following the very brief hearing.

Both defendants remain free on bond. No new court date has been scheduled. If convicted, they could each be sentenced to up to three years in federal prison, $250,000 in fines and supervised release.

Guesman, who told the judge he cannot afford an attorney, was appointed federal public defender Carolyn Kucharski.

Court documents filed in Guesman’s case suggest that Guesman no longer is employed by Hardrock, but rather now is employed as an “industrial cleaner for machinery.”

The judge will allow Guesman to travel out of the federal court’s northern Ohio district for work purposes.

According to the federal indictment, Guesman dumped brine and oil-based drilling mud into a storm sewer several times between November and January under the direction of Lupo, his boss and the company owner. Lupo, who owns Hardrock and D&L Energy with addresses at 2761 Salt Springs Road, is accused of directing Guesman on Nov. 1 to empty some of the waste liquids stored on the property into the nearby stormwater drain using a hose.

Also pleading not guilty to a federal criminal charge was Hardrock Excavating of Youngstown. Company representatives did not appear in court, but were represented by the company’s attorney J. Gerald Ingram.