MADISON, WIS. – Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Bonnie Dennee, 66, Phillips, Wisconsin, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to five months in federal prison, followed by a three-year term of supervised release, for conspiracy to store and transport hazardous waste without required permits and manifests, in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Dennee pleaded guilty to this charge on October 22, 2020.
Dennee’s co-defendant, James Moss, pleaded guilty to this charge on September 1, 2020, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Co-defendant Thomas Drake signed a plea agreement to this charge on December 31, 2019, which was filed on May 21 ,2020. Finally, co-defendant Kevin Shibilski was indicted by a grand jury on September 10, 2020. The indictment against Shibilski included a hazardous waste storage charge, as well as eight counts of wire fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the IRS by not paying over employment taxes and income taxes.
Dennee worked for 5R Processors Ltd. (5R) based in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. 5R was a Wisconsin-based corporation involved in recycling electronic equipment, appliances, and other assets. Dennee pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging that from 2011 to 2016, Dennee, Moss, Drake and others conspired to (1) knowingly store hazardous waste (i.e., broken and crushed CRT glass that contained lead) at unpermitted facilities in Catawba, Wisconsin, Glen Flora, Wisconsin, and Morristown, Tennessee; (2) knowingly transport the hazardous waste without a required manifest; and (3) conceal the above violations from state regulators in Wisconsin and Tennessee, as well as auditors with a nationwide recycling certification program (R2).
At her plea hearing, Dennee admitted to attempting to conceal the illegal storage and transport of the crushed leaded glass from state regulators by various means, including: (1) changing the date labels on the containers; (2) hiding the containers by putting them inside semi-trailers and locking the trailer doors; (3) moving the containers to the back of the warehouse and stacking other pallets in front of them, making it impossible for regulators to see the boxes or inspect them; (4) storing the containers at a warehouse on Artisan Drive in Glen Flora, Wisconsin (known as the “Sunshine Building”), and not disclosing the existence of this warehouse, or its contents, to state regulators or R2 auditors; (5) storing the containers at 5R’s plant in Morristown, Tennessee in two warehouse spaces that did not have electricity or power, and which were referred to by 5R employees as the “dark side” and the “dark-dark side;” and (6) providing the state regulators with inaccurate inventory and shipping records for the leaded glass.
At today’s sentencing, Judge Conley told Dennee that once she left 5R in 2016, she could have reported the criminal conduct to regulators at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, but she chose not to make such a disclosure. Judge Conley pointed out that her inaction, “let the community down.” Dennee agreed with the Court’s assessment, adding that she could not provide a good reason why she did not come forward after she left the company.
Nonetheless, Judge Conley praised Denee for ultimately doing the right thing and cooperating with the government to help explain and unravel the criminal conspiracy, but noted that Dennee, “still needed to pay a price.” Judge Conley added, “I hope this sentence also delivers a message to others who wish to commit this same conduct.”
The charges against Dennee were the result of an investigation conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Law Enforcement; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; and IRS Criminal Investigation. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Graber.