The former leader of Recycletronics, an Iowa e-scrap firm that amassed CRT stockpiles and failed in 2017, has been sentenced to probation for violating federal hazardous waste laws.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa sentenced Aaron Rochester to three years probation on Nov. 8. It’s the latest development in the CRT stockpiling case at Recycletronics, a now-defunct Sioux City, Iowa-based e-scrap firm run by Rochester, 47.
Rochester in March pleaded guilty to two criminal charges of storing and stockpiling hazardous waste including leaded CRT glass. The probation sentence stems from those charges.
The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case urged a prison sentence of between 12 and 18 months, and the defense requested a lesser sentence. The court sealed the defense request, making the specifics of the request unavailable. Judge Leonard Strand ultimately imposed a sentence of 36 months of probation.
The CRT stockpiles at Recycletronics facilities led regulators to force the company to stop accepting CRT devices in early 2017. State and federal regulators ramped up enforcement actions against the company later that year, estimating that Rochester’s company had stockpiled nearly 17 million pounds of CRT materials and other scrap electronics since 2013.
The Iowa Attorney General filed a civil suit against Recycletronics in early 2018, asking the court to compel Rochester to remove and properly dispose of the stockpiled electronics. Later that year, Rochester was hit with the federal charges.
Before the company failed, Recycletronics at one time used Closed Loop Refining & Recovery as a downstream outlet for CRT materials. Closed Loop failed in 2016, leaving millions of pounds of CRT glass stockpiled in Ohio and Arizona.
Prosecution acknowledges financial woes
In recommending the prison sentence for Rochester, the prosecution noted his lack of any criminal record prior to the CRT issues.
Photos submitted with the sentencing memo show the stockpiled electronics and leaded glass. Some of the materials were stored outdoors and were spilling out of gaylords onto the ground, the photos show.
It also notes that Rochester “received money for the receipt of used/abandoned electronics equipment, particularly the electronic equipment which contained the CRTs with leaded glass, and was also able to strip out certain material, like certain metals and other materials, and obtain money for such scrap materials.”
But the memo acknowledges the financial realities of processing CRTs.
“The processing and removal of the leaded glass, both locally and more significantly its transport and receipt elsewhere, was a cost, in large part due to its toxic, chemical nature,” the memo states. “And at some early point in his business operation, [Rochester] found the cost of appropriate processing and removal of the leaded glass financially impractical, if prohibitive.”
Still, it also points out that Rochester continued to accept CRT materials and accept payment for them even after the materials had amassed into stockpiles.
Total cleanup costs are estimated at more than $4 million, according to the memo. It adds that Rochester and Recycletronics have paid “little, to no” restitution and likely will not be able to in the future.
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