Arkansas landfill boss, hauler face fraud counts

The supervisor of the Mississippi County landfill and his best friend, who is a driver for a trucking company in Missouri, were arrested Thursday on federal charges of honest services fraud and conspiracy, accused of diverting fees for dumping loads of waste at the landfill.

An FBI agent's affidavit that led a federal judge to issue arrest warrants Wednesday for supervisor William Chester Allen and his friend Joe Harlon Hamlett of Ross Farms Trucking in Kennett, Mo., outlines a scheme that it says was carried out in 2017 and was still underway when the men were arrested.

The men were arraigned Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Kearney, who released Hamlett but detained Allen at the request of federal prosecutors, according to documents that were unsealed Thursday. Kearney set a hearing for 11 a.m. today to consider Allen's request that he be allowed to remain free until his trial.

According to a criminal complaint based on an affidavit from FBI agent Ed Jernigan in Jonesboro, a federal investigation into the allegations began in February, after employees at the county landfill near Luxora, between Blytheville and Osceola, contacted the FBI.

Wil Allen, as the supervisor is known, was appointed to his position by the previous county judge, Randy Carney, who died and was replaced a year ago by Terri Brassfield, the interim county judge. Allen's duties included supervising the dumping of waste by various companies at the landfill and ensuring that those who dump waste pay the proper fees.

Jernigan described the initial processing site for trucks delivering loads of waste to the landfill as a scale house where the trucks are weighed before they proceed through the entry gate to the dumping location.

The entities dumping at the landfill, and the type and tonnage of waste dumped by each, are documented at the scale house, which uses those calculations to determine the dumping fee. The county then uses those records to bill the companies and to file paperwork with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

An employee told Jernigan in February that for about a year, a distinctive yellow truck had been dumping materials, including demolition debris, at the landfill without driving over the scales to be weighed and without paying. Jernigan said the employee estimated that he had seen the truck about 50 times.

The FBI agent said he had met Allen at a Blytheville truck stop on Sept. 22 and served him with a subpoena demanding landfill records. The employee recalled accompanying Allen that same day to the trucking company in Kennett, located about 50 miles from the landfill. Jernigan said he followed the employee's directions and found a shop, trucks and dumpsters in Kennett, as well as yellow dumpsters and trucks capable of hauling them. Signs on the dumpsters said "Tri-State Excavating" and "Ross Farms/Trucking."

In reviewing Mississippi County records, Jernigan said he found that Ross Farms had been billed 11 times for dumping loads at the landfill.

Jernigan said the employee, acting as a confidential source, later reported overhearing Allen tell someone in a March 2 telephone conversation to "come through the back door like always," and that later that day, a yellow truck entered the landfill and bypassed the scales, prompting a customer from another company, Waste Pro, to complain and take a picture.

The FBI began conducting video surveillance at the landfill in March, Jernigan said. He said the video showed that on about 30 occasions, a distinctive yellow bin was hauled into the landfill, usually by a similarly colored truck, through a back entrance that avoided the scales.

He said a Waste Pro supervisor told him that when the landfill's scales were temporarily out of order in January, the supervisor suggested having his load weighed at the nearby truck stop, at his expense, and then taking the weight ticket to the landfill. But, he told Jernigan, Allen rejected the idea and instead suggested that if the supervisor would "pay a couple of hundred dollars," Waste Pro could dump its loads without being billed.

After FBI surveillance showed a yellow truck visiting the landfill several times on the morning of April 17, state police pulled the truck over and found that it was driven by Hamlett of Blytheville, Jernigan said.

The lengthy affidavit also reveals that according to a second employee of the landfill, the scheme changed over the summer so that the yellow truck, whose bypassing of the scales had drawn several complaints, started actually crossing the scales. But when that happened, the employee said, Allen and scale-house employees wouldn't create scale tickets, preventing the county from billing Ross Farms.

Jernigan said the second employee produced recordings of his conversations with Allen in which the supervisor talked about splitting $2,000 a week with the employee for allowing unrecorded dumps.

Then on Aug. 14, Jernigan said, one of the employees said Allen had advised him that he "was going to allow more vehicles to cross the scales without being charged."

Jernigan estimated that since March, the scheme deprived the county of about $20,000 for accepting about 70 loads that were never billed to the Missouri company.

Metro on 08/31/2018