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Couple sentenced in federal hazardous-waste case

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A former Locust Grove couple will serve time in federal prison, after pleading guilty to illegally dumping hazardous waste.

John and Jennifer Duffey, of Macon, both 39, were each sentenced to one year and one day behind bars Monday. The sentences for the couple, who lived in Henry County when they were charged in the case, were handed down in United States District Court, according to a press statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta.

The Duffeys will also be required to serve three years of supervised release, including six months of home confinement, and were both ordered to pay $41,238 in restitution.

The couple was investigated for reportedly dumping the waste while conducting military training exercises through their company, Joint Military Development Services (JMDS). JMDS purchased explosives containing a hazardous-waste material called naphthalene, to use in military exercises, but did not dispose of it properly, according to the press release.

"After investigating the cost of proper disposal, Jennifer Duffey chose not to pay approximately $15,000 for lawful disposal," wrote U.S. Attorney's Office Spokesman Patrick Crosby. "Instead, in mid-October 2008, she instructed an employee to remove the labels from the napalm containers, mix the explosive powder with water and bury it on an adjacent landowner's property in the Locust Grove, Ga., area."

The employee, Crosby continued, reported having "intense headaches" from interacting with the powder. Still, the spokesman said, John and Jennifer Duffey instructed employees to dump the waste a second time, in November of 2008.

"On this second occasion, the couple bought masks for the employees to wear due to the headache caused by the earlier dumping," Crosby wrote. "Jennifer Duffey instructed the employees to cover the dump site with leaves and a pallet. John Duffey also monitored the two employees who illegally disposed of the hazardous waste in November."

Crosby stated that John Duffey later admitted to an obstruction of justice charge, for attempting to tamper with witnesses. "He threatened employees that if they told of the disposal they would lose their jobs," Crosby wrote. "John Duffey also created a false timeline of events, and asked an employee to use that false version of events when questioned by investigators."

JMDS, according to Crosby, did not have a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency to dispose of the waste, and lied to an inspector with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, who examined the facility.

"After the illegal disposal, one of the employees who assisted in the dumping came forward to the Environmental Protection Agency to report the illegal disposal," Crosby wrote. "Based on his cooperation, he was not prosecuted."

In the federal agency's release, United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said the Duffeys' actions "endanger the community and create potential health and safety risks."

"An employer who orders an employee to commit an environmental crime is also guilty of the crime and faces the same prosecution," Yates said.