Officials of Explo Systems, Inc., were sentenced last week for their roles in a criminal conspiracy.
Explo Systems Inc., was a private company whose primary business operations involved the demilitarization of military munitions and the subsequent resale of recovered explosive materials for mining operations. The U.S. Army awarded Explo an $8.6 million contract to demilitarize approximately 1.35 million propelling charges containing M6 propellant, a solid, granular, explosive material, to lawfully store them, and to handle the final disposition of the explosives.
“The defendants sentenced today used Camp Minden here in Northwest Louisiana as the largest illegal dumping ground of military explosives in the history of the United States – at over 15.6 million pounds of explosives,” United States Attorney David C. Joseph said. “I want to thank our federal and state law enforcement partners for their commitment to protecting Louisiana’s citizens and environment. Those who endanger the safety of our community to satisfy their own greed will be held accountable.”
United States District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote sentenced the following defendants:
Co-owner David Alan Smith, 63, of Winchester, Kentucky, to 55 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $34,798,761 restitution for participating in the criminal conspiracy.
Vice President of Operations William Terry Wright, 65, of Bossier City, Louisiana, to 60 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $149,032.80 restitution for participating in the criminal conspiracy.
Director of Support Technology Charles Ferris Callihan, 69, of Shreveport, to 24 months in prison, one year of supervised release and $207,599 restitution for making false representations in documents.
M6 Demil Program Manager Kenneth Wayne Lampkin, 66, of Haughton, Louisiana, to 45 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $149,032.80 restitution for making false statements.
Traffic and Inventory Control Manager Lionel Wayne Koons, 59, of Haughton, to 41 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $92,921 restitution for making false statements.
“Our nation’s environmental laws demand that hazardous wastes be handled safely and legally,” said Jessica Taylor, Director of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. “Protecting public health and safety is EPA’s core mission. When businesses choose profit over safety, they often endanger not only the environment but American lives.”
Explo represented that it intended to sell and reuse the M6 propellant to third parties. Upon the sale of the M6 propellant, the contract also required Explo to document the sale and certify to the Army its compliance of the sale with federal laws, by submitting official certificates to the Army. The defendants conspired from January 2010 to November 2012 to defraud the United States by submitting false certificates to the U.S. Army, transporting hazardous wastes to unpermitted facilities, and improperly storing the explosives causing the government to pay money to the conspirators to which they were not entitled. From June 2011 through October 2012, Explo officials submitted false certificates to the Army showing sales of demilitarized M6 propellant to third parties, when in fact the sales did not occur. Explo officials, including Wright, also did not inform or notify the thirdparties that Explo submitted the executed certificates to the Army as proof of sale of demilitarized M6. Wright submitted the certificates with forged and or fabricated signatures.
“The sentencing of these five subjects should be a very clear warning to those who attempt to defraud the U.S. Government,” said Frank Robey, director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “Aside from the monetary fraud, these subjects wantonly placed the lives of so many at risk. Our special agents, along with our federal law enforcement partners, not only recouped money, but may have just saved the lives of those working at the facility and the surrounding area from a larger disaster.”
As part of the conspiracy, Smith included false and misleading statements in the proposal for the demilitarization contract regarding, among other things, Explo’s storage capacity and ability to dispose of demilitarized M6 Propellant. Wright, Koons, and others instructed lower level employees to move and improperly store M6 propellant in order to prevent government officials from discovering the improperly stored M6 propellant. Wright and others also instructed lower-level employees to hide and conceal improperly stored reactive hazardous waste from government officials during inspections.
“The fact that individuals would knowingly and willingly place the citizens of Louisiana in danger is indeed disturbing,” stated Colonel Kevin Reeves, State Police Superintendent. “The decision to sentence these individuals is the culmination of an exhaustive investigation by the Louisiana State Police Emergency Services Unit working directly with our local and federal partners. I am appreciative of all their efforts.”
Furthermore, Callihan submitted false documents to landfills in Louisiana and Arkansas representing that the waste Explo shipped to the landfills was not hazardous, when in fact the waste was D003 reactive hazardous waste. The landfills were not legally permitted to receive hazardous waste. On October 15, 2012, an explosion occurred at a munitions storage bunker at Camp Minden, which was leased by Expo from the Louisiana Military Department. The explosion contained approximately 124,190 pounds of smokeless powder and a box van trailer containing approximately 42,240 pounds of demilitarized M6 propellant. The damage destroyed the bunker and trailer, shattered windows of dwellings within a fourmile radius, derailed 11 rail cars near the storage bunker and led to the evacuation of the town of Doyline, Louisiana.
“Today’s sentencings represent the results of an uncompromising and tenacious investigation by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), other agency partners, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said John F. Khin, Special Agent in Charge, DCIS-Southeast Field Office. “DCIS remains committed to pursuing Government contractors who choose profit and expediency over quality and safety, and bringing to justice anyone who violates the law through fraud and deception to undermine the critical missions of the Department of Defense and threaten the safety of our communities.”
“We believe today’s sentencing sends a strong message to those responsible for properly handling and disposing of explosive material,” said Todd Damiani, Regional Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. “Working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we will continue our vigorous efforts to protect against those who would risk the safety of the public and the environment for personal gain.”
Smith pleaded guilty December 14, 2017 to the conspiracy count and one count of making a false statement; Koons pleaded guilty on April 24, 2018, to one count of making a false statement; Lampkin pleaded guilty May 14, 2018, to one count of making a false statement; and Callihan pleaded guilty on June 8, 2018, to a one-count bill of information charging false representations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
“The actions of these defendants in the Explo case resulted in millions of dollars of expense for state and federal agencies,” said Dr. Chuck Carr Brown, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. “Hours of investigation went into their prosecution, and hundreds and thousands of man hours went into the resolution of the environmental disaster they created. When individuals willfully and knowingly commit crimes that endanger human health and the environment, they must face the strictest penalties under the law. I applaud the work of the investigative team that brought the charges against these individuals and the attorneys who successfully prosecuted the case. This outcome should stand as a lesson to those who are tempted to flout environmental regulations and laws: there will be a reckoning.”
The Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation, Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service, FBI, Department of Transportation-Office of Inspector General, Louisiana State PoliceEmergency Service Unit, Webster Parish District Attorney J. Schuyler Marvin, and the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Earl M. Campbell and J. Aaron Crawford prosecuted the case.