Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, March 7, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid to Late February

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2017, the 301 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.
If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Chinatown Fish Case Settled - Kings County
On Nov. 6, 2017, ECOs Ryan Grogan and Paul Pasciak arrested the owner of Five United Market in Kings County and charged him with illegal commercialization of wildlife, a Class E felony, for 405 undersized tautog (blackfish) discovered during a plain clothes operation in Brooklyn's Chinatown. ECOs discovered the fish hidden in tank filters in the basement. The 900 pounds of seized fish were donated to City Harvest, a charitable organization that supports needy populations throughout the city. The owner of the market settled the case on Feb. 6, and paid a penalty of $10,000. This was the market's second run-in with ECOs in three months. ECO Grogan also cited the market in Sept. 2017 for the possession of an additional 44 undersized tautog, for which they paid a fine of $800.

Undersized tautog seized in Chinatown
Undersized tautog seized in Chinatown

The Year of the Clam - Nassau County
On Feb. 19, the Chinese New Year, ECOs Michael Unger and Chris Macropoulos inspected a supermarket in Mineola that ECO Unger has concerns about due to its extensive seafood section, including several varieties of shellfish. After reviewing the market's invoices, the ECOs determined that the market did not possess the proper tags for some of the shellfish for sale, including hard clams, soft clams, surf clams, oysters, and razor clams. The market was also unable to produce tags for previously sold shellfish as required by law. The market was issued two summonses for possessing untagged shellfish and failing to retain shellfish tags for 90 days. Through the market's invoices, the ECOs determined that all of the shellfish were legally obtained, but could not be resold without the tags. Being that it was Chinese New Year, and in lieu of destroying the shellfish, the ECOs allowed the manager to give the shellfish as gifts to his employees.

Quick Fix - Niagara County
On Feb. 20, ECO Josh Wolgast responded to a call regarding a fuel spill in North Tonawanda with the DEC Spills unit, North Tonawanda Police Department, North Tonawanda Fire and Niagara County's HAZMAT personnel. The group found the source of the spill, which had spread through several properties around Belling Place. The investigation revealed that a subject had punctured and emptied a home heating oil tank that was being removed from a residence on Belling Place. The subject admitted to emptying the fuel into five-gallon buckets before hauling the buckets across the street and dumping approximately 50 gallons of fuel onto the ground behind a garage. Crews worked to contain the fuel, no impacts to water sources were noted, and the defendant was issued several tickets returnable to the City of North Tonawanda Court on March 1.

Too Early for Stripers - Rockland County
On Feb. 21, ECOs Corey Hornicek and Jon Walraven were on patrol in Rockland County when they observed two men accompanied by several young children fishing on a pier notorious for fish poaching. Almost immediately, the ECOs noticed a stringer hanging over the side of the pier. As the ECOs approached the group, the officers asked the fishermen whether they had caught any fish, to which both replied "none today." ECO Walraven pulled up the stringer, which had six striped bass on the end of it. Confronted with the overwhelming evidence, one of the fisherman admitted to keeping the fish on the stringer. The fish were still alive and were released. The fisherman was issued a ticket for possession of striped bass out of season, returnable to the Village of Haverstraw Court.

On Feb. 24, ECO Adam Johnson received a call about a fisherman keeping striped bass out of season and putting them in his vehicle near Piermont Pier. ECOs Johnson and Jon Walraven responded and stopped the suspect's vehicle as he was leaving the parking lot. The driver admitted to having five striped bass in the vehicle and was ticketed for possessing striped bass out of season and failing to have a marine registry. The ECOs continued checking fishermen along the pier and encountered five more individuals in possession of striped bass. The stripers were hidden inside two more vehicles and among the rocks along the pier. In total, the officers seized 20 striped bass from six individuals and 10 tickets were issued for possessing striped bass out of season and failing to have a marine registry. The living fish were returned to the Hudson River. All of the tickets are returnable to the Village of Piermont Court.

ECO Walraven returning live striped bass to the Hudson River
ECO Walraven returning live striped bass to the Hudson River

ECO Johnson with seized dead stripers
ECO Johnson with seized dead stripers

Don't Shoot and Drive - Lewis County
On Feb. 22, ECOs Tim Worden and Zach Brown assisted the Lewis County Sheriff's Department with a complaint about two young men shooting at road signs. The night before, a local resident managed to get a license plate number from a vehicle after hearing gunshots in front of his house. Lewis County Deputies tracked down the men and both admitted that they had been driving around and shooting road signs from their vehicle. ECOs Worden and Brown searched the area and found a shell casing from a .22 caliber rifle just 54 feet from a dwelling. Both men were charged with 11 misdemeanors, including shooting from a roadway, possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. The charges are returnable to the Town of New Bremen and Town of Watson courts. The Lewis County District Attorney's Office is pursuing additional charges against the men.

Road sign shot in Lewis County
Road sign shot in Lewis County

Hot Pursuit Ends In Cold Swim - Putnam County
On Feb. 23, ECO Kevin Wamsley received a phone call at 2 a.m. from DEC Dispatch that a vehicle had crashed into a pond in Putnam County. ECO Wamsley arrived to find multiple fire engines, ambulances, and local police cars on scene. A Sergeant from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department explained that a deputy had attempted to stop a vehicle for speeding but the vehicle sped away, failed to navigate a turn, crashed through a guardrail, went airborne, landed in the middle of the pond, and became submerged. The driver swam through the icy water, was arrested on shore, and taken to the hospital. A dive team confirmed there were no other occupants in the vehicle and hooked up a tow line. The car was hauled out of the water by a local towing company. ECO Wamsley determined that oil spilled into the pond, as well. Numerous summonses were issued to the driver by the Putnam County Sheriff's Department, including driving while intoxicated. ECO Wamsley also issued a ticket to the driver for polluting waters in contravention of standards, with all charges pending in the Town of Southeast Court.

The totalled vehicle after being pulled from the pond
The totalled vehicle after being pulled from the pond

Illegal Solid Waste Burning - Rensselaer and Greene Counties
On Feb. 24, ECO Brian Canzeri investigated an illegal burning complaint in the town of Pittstown in Rensselaer County. ECO Canzeri determined that a homeowner had been bringing construction debris back to his house to burn and bury. Unlawful disposal of solid waste and illegal burning charges were issued and the material has been ordered to be cleaned up. Also on Feb. 24, ECOs Anthony Glorioso and Lucas Palmateer responded to a residence in Catskill for a report of debris burning. An investigation revealed that the owner of the residence, also the owner of a painting and carpentry business, was burning a large pile of commercial and demolition debris. The pile included pressure-treated wood, vinyl siding, painted lumber, and pieces of furniture. The subject admitted to dumping the material in his yard and was charged with burning of prohibited material and unlawful disposal of solid waste.

Illegal burning construction and demolition debris - image 1 Illegal burning construction and demolition debris - image 2
Illegal burning construction and demolition debris

Too Much Mud - Broome County
On Feb. 26, Lt. Ric Warner and ECO Eric Templeton investigated a complaint that a local logging company was allowing mud and silt to enter a stream in the town of Colesville. It had been reported that the stream, a tributary to the Susquehanna River, was being muddied by the loggers as they ran log skidders across the streambed during operations. In discussion with the two officers, the owners of the logging company stated they had established mats to bridge the stream crossing, but with warmer weather, the mats had slipped into the stream bed. With only a couple of days left before completion of the job, the loggers made the unfortunate decision to continue work as usual and, as a result, turned the stream into a thick, muddy mess. ECO Templeton and Lt. Warner ordered the project stopped until appropriate, effective siltation controls could be installed. The loggers stated they would install the siltation control measures immediately and re-bridge the crossing the following day. The loggers will be charged with contravention of water quality standards and, if appropriate actions are taken to correct the deficiencies at the job site, will settle the issue administratively through a Consent Order with DEC.

Muddy stream crossing on a logging job site
Muddy stream crossing on a logging job site

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