Mississippi County's landfill supervisor, William Chester "Wil" Allen, and his friend Joe Harlon Hamlett of Missouri were formally indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Little Rock on two charges each of honest services wire fraud.
The men were charged late last month in a federal criminal complaint with scheming to keep a trucking company Hamlett worked for from paying about $20,000 in fees for at least 70 loads of waste the company dumped at the landfill between March and July.
The complaint allowed the men to be arrested before the grand jury could review their case. Although federal prosecutors asked that Allen stay behind bars because of concerns that he is temperamental, carries guns and might harm someone he blamed for the arrest, a federal magistrate judge allowed his release Aug. 31, a day after both men were arrested. The judge imposed several conditions, however, including that Allen stay away from the county judge, county property and his employees.
In an Aug. 31 hearing on the detention issue, FBI agent Ed Jernigan, who is based in Jonesboro, testified that he has been investigating Allen since late 2015 in connection with "multiple fraud schemes," including one in which the county paid about $900,000 for dirt hauled to the landfill. Jernigan said state police were also investigating Allen.
Jernigan indicated his investigation wasn't over but that he arrested Allen anyway because of concerns about other people's welfare and possible environmental hazards.
He said the interim county judge, Terri Brassfield, relayed that Allen once told her that "if problems ever arise for me, I know where everything is [at the landfill] and I can shut it down and make lives miserable."
Jernigan said the landfill is a "highly regulated area," and the county has dealt with consistent runoff problems that, if not properly addressed, could lead to a $500,000 fine in the event of damage to nearby land and crops.
The indictment alleges that from February 2017 until last month, Allen, Hamlett and one other person who wasn't named devised a scheme, using bribery and kickbacks, to defraud Mississippi County, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the state of their right to Allen's honest services as landfill supervisor.
Allen allowed Hamlett, who drove big yellow trucks to the landfill, to bypass the scales at the entrance and dump loads in exchange for the trucking company's cash payments to Allen, the indictment says. It doesn't identify the company, but it has been previously identified as Ross Farms Trucking in Kennett, Mo. The indictment says the purpose of the scheme was to reduce the company's costs and enrich Allen.
The scheme resulted in the landfill keeping false and fraudulent records omitting the 70 loads and reflecting that the company was billed for just 17 of 30 loads dumped between March and May, and for just three of 40 loads dumped in June and July, the indictment alleges.
Checks that were mailed from Mississippi County to the environmental office in Little Rock -- one in April and one in July -- were fraudulent in that they didn't reflect the correct amount of money owed to the county and the department, the indictment says, listing those checks as the basis for the charges.
The county landfill is near Luxora, between Blytheville and Osceola. The trucking company is about 50 miles away in Missouri.
Allen was appointed as the landfill supervisor by a previous county judge, Randy Carney, who died and was replaced last year by Brassfield, the interim county judge.
Jernigan testified that an employee of the landfill told him in February that a distinctive yellow truck had been dumping material, including demolition debris, at the landfill without driving over scales that weigh the trucks before they proceed to the dumping location. The employee estimated he had seen the yellow truck avoid being weighed or charged for the loads about 50 times, Jernigan said.
Jernigan said the employee also described hearing Allen direct someone over the phone to "come through the back door like always" a day before a yellow truck entered the landfill and bypassed the scales. He said the FBI set up surveillance at the landfill and soon documented at least 30 occasions in which a yellow truck came in through the back entrance and avoided the scales.
Metro on 09/15/2018
Print Headline: Landfill director, hauler indicted on fraud counts