CLEVELAND - The Poland man who ordered his employees to dump tankers of oilfield waste down a Youngstown storm sewer on 33 occasions will spend more than two years in federal prison.
Benedict Lupo, 64, will report to federal prison at a date to be determined, where he will serve 28 months. He also was sentenced Tuesday to pay a $25,000 fine.
U.S. District Court Judge Donald C. Nugent imposed the sentence following an hours-long hearing in his Cleveland courtroom in which Lupo's attorneys called witnesses that they hoped would convince the judge that house arrest was more appropriate for Lupo who suffers from various serious ailments, including kidney failure and uncontrolled type 2 diabetes.
Tribune Chronicle / Brenda J. Linert
Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, holds a sample of oil skimmed from the surface of a Youngstown creek after Lupo had ordered that the oilfield waste be dumped down a storm drain.
The prosecution countered with testimony from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's on-scene coordinator from the cleanup effort and dozens of photos showing the extent of the environmental damage along the banks of Youngstown waterways. It took more than a month to clean the mess and cost $3.1 million. The cleanup bill was footed by D&L Energy, another company owned by Lupo and owner of the Salt Springs Road property where the dumping took place.
"All you have to do is look at the photographs that we saw today to see the damage that was done to the environment, and it was significant," Nugent said from the bench. "There has to be some type of sentence imposed that would reflect that. And I have to say that home detention doesn't act as a deterrent to anybody else."
Lupo, former owner of Hardrock Excavating, pleaded guilty in March to ordering two then-employees of that company to dump the brine and oilfield waste down the drain after dark on dozens of occasions. They were caught by investigators from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on Jan. 31, 2013, after receiving an anonymous tip. The two employees, Michael Guesman of Cortland and Mark Goff of Newton Falls, also were charged with the same crime. Both have pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation and community service.
Nugent cited those cases when pronouncing sentencing Tuesday.
"I know you are apologetic now and remorseful now, but I have to look at everything in context," Nugent told Lupo after he stood before the court and apologized for his actions. Nugent said Goff and Guesman had done Lupo's bidding and got caught up in it, but only after they had tried to talk him out of it.
"Now they are saddled as much younger people going through their life trying to get a job and you are the catalyst," Nugent said.
During the lengthy hearing, Lupo's longtime physician, Thomas N. Detesco, M.D., of Boardman, testified about Lupo's many health issues, saying Lupo is in renal failure and undergoes daily kidney dialysis. Lupo had a kidney transplant in 2010 but received an infected kidney. He now is awaiting a second transplant, Detesco said under oath. He has numerous other health concerns as well, and said he had suffered a bout with depression and was suicidal at one point shortly following the cleanup efforts. At that time he was admitted into the psychiatric ward at the Cleveland Clinic.
During cross examination, one of Lupo's three attorneys, Roger Synenberg pleaded for mercy on behalf of his client, noting that the health issues would equal a death sentence. He asked instead that Lupo be hit with a heavy fine and house arrest.
"We know it was wrong. Before you stands a frail man. We know if he goes to jail, it's essentially a death penalty for him. Who wins then?" Synenberg said.
Lupo and his attorney declined to comment after the sentencing.