South Carolina woman sentenced to prison for environmental crimes

A South Carolina woman convicted of storing hazardous waste without a permit has been sentenced to five years in prison. She was also found guilty of bank fraud, and is scheduled to serve a total of 73 months in custody in addition to paying $17.7 million in restitution.

Nancy Marie Stein, 62 years old, pled guilty in December. Her company, the American Screw and Rivet Corporation (ASR), is also on probation for the next five years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ASR never obtained the appropriate permits to store large amounts of hazardous manufacturing waste.

In the summer of 2011, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) searched ASR and found more than 24,000 gallons of hazardous waste. The EPA removed and disposed of the materials, with a total cost of about $1.7 million.

"For a number of years, the defendants stockpiled thousands of gallons of unpermitted hazardous waste at ASR's location in Anderson," Maureen O'Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in South Carolina, said in a press release. "This waste consisted of uncontained flammable and highly corrosive materials which were exposed to the elements. Today's sentencing shows that those who refuse to comply with the law, putting public health and the environment at risk, will face the consequences in court."

Stein also created a number of fake companies to apply for loans, fabricating records of sale for machinery that didn't exist. She obtained millions of dollars from at least 26 lending institutions. 

While this appears to be a clear case of criminal behavior, some business owners unintentionally break environmental laws, realizing their mistakes only when the EPA arrives at their door. Environmental consultants help you ensure you are operating in a completely legal manner, protecting you and your company from harsh punishments down the road.