A Frederick man who tossed waste in pits at a foreclosed residential property to avoid landfill fees pleaded guilty in court to illegal solid waste disposal and water pollution.
Jack LaForce Jr., 53, was charged with “four counts related to the excavation and disposal of solid waste at a rural residential property in Myersville and the resulting water pollution,” according to a news release from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General.
In Frederick County Circuit Court, Judge Julia A. Martz-Fisher sentenced LaForce on Thursday to four years incarceration, all suspended, and three years of probation as part of a plea agreement. The sentence includes paying fines totaling $80,000, suspending all but $30,000 owed to the Maryland Clean Water Fund and about $14,500 in restitution.
When LaForce owned a fire and flood restoration business, the attorney general’s office said he told his employees to excavate large pits at a Myersville property to dispose of waste. From approximately January 2013 through December 2015, Frederick Fire and Flood Inc. employees dug pits that were then filled with waste including: carpet and carpet padding, wood and burnt wood, trash bags of domestic waste, plastic sheeting, insulation, piping, books, papers, glass, furniture, plastic and metal objects, paint cans, wiring, mattresses and appliances.
The pits were covered to hide the illegal disposal, according to the attorney general’s office. The property was later resold.
“LaForce used foreclosed property to dispose of dangerous solid waste merely to save money,” Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a prepared statement. “This criminal conduct endangered the environment and put at risk the safety of citizens. Punishment for these crimes is unquestionably warranted.”
LaForce’s defense attorney, Christopher Rolle, told the News-Post LaForce is trying to move on after the incident.
“Mr. LaForce was not familiar with the very technical environmental laws, but once he discovered that he had done wrong, he took full responsibility for all his actions, and he has paid in full the restitution and all the fines that were required of him,” Rolle said Monday. “He was a successful business man at one point. Unfortunately, he suffered some setbacks in his life, he lost his wife and [had] some other tragic incidents. He’s trying to pick up the pieces of his life and move on.”
In April 2019, the Environmental Crimes Unit of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General excavated multiple areas of the property after an “extensive investigation that included interviews with former employees and a geophysical survey of the area,” the release states.
In addition to the solid waste found, investigators discovered a public health concern known as leachate — “the dissolution of soluble pollutants that leach from the waste into the surrounding ground water as the waste deteriorates and decomposes,” according to the attorney general’s office. Leachate poses a risk to the environment and people “and is particularly concerning in areas that obtain water from drinking wells,” the release states. Legal landfills go through extensive permitting and take significant steps to prevent this, the attorney general’s office noted.