Former Freedom Industries Executive Charged

Gary Southern was arrested Dec. 8 and made his initial court appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Ft. Myers, Florida, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced.

Almost one year after at least 3,000 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol leaked from a storage tank owned by chemical distributor Freedom Industries and contaminated the drinking water supply to 300,000 West Virginians, including those living in Charleston, the state capital, criminal charges have been filed against a former executive of that company. Booth Goodwin, U.S. attorney for West Virginia's Southern District, announced that Gary Southern was arrested Dec. 8 in Florida and made his initial court appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Ft. Myers, Fla., and has been released on a $100,000 unsecured bond, with his travel restricted to the Middle District of Florida and the Southern District of West Virginia.

Southern had to surrender his passport and lawful permanent resident card, Goodwin said in a statement, adding that Southern's next court appearance is set for Dec. 18, 2014, at 2 p.m. for a preliminary hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse in Charleston.

A criminal complaint filed Dec. 8 charges Southern with bankruptcy fraud, lying in a bankruptcy case, and committing wire fraud by filing false documents in a bankruptcy case, Goodwin announced.

West Virginia state agencies took enforcement action against Freedom Industries following the Jan. 9, 2014, leak, stating that a retaining wall around the tank should have prevented the spill but did not, nor did Freedom Industries report the leak itself. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Water and Waste Management issued a Cease Operations Order to Freedom Industries' Etowah River Terminal, LLC after the leak was found, and the agency's Division of Air Quality issued a violation notice alleging that Freedom Industries caused statutory air pollution by discharging MCHM into the air.

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