Court gavel resting on a book.

The former owner of Eastern Electronics Recycling pleaded guilty to charges of knowingly storing hazardous materials without permits. | Tiko Aramyan/Shutterstock

The owner of a shuttered e-scrap company will avoid prison time but will still have to fund the cleanup of CRT materials in North Carolina.

A federal judge on Nov. 17 sentenced Lee Vann Crawford, who owned and operated Eastern Electronics Recycling, to five years of probation. Judge Louise Wood Flanagan granted a request from the defense to deviate from sentencing guidelines, which recommended some form of confinement.

Just over a year ago, Crawford, of Greenville, N.C., pleaded guilty to knowingly storing hazardous CRT materials on a property in Robersonville, N.C. between August 2016 and August 2021 without permits.

On Nov. 1, 2022, Crawford signed a consent order with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality obligating him to clean up the property.

According to the order, CRTs and other e-scrap were stored both inside and outside of buildings, including in and among vegetation outside. The documents don’t estimate a total weight on site, but they note that the property contains two buildings, a north building and south building, both holding e-scrap. Material is stored inside the roughly 4,500-square-foot north building and over about roughly 2,000 square feet of land outside the north building, according to the consent order.

“The majority of the e-waste in this area was dismantled and in a state of disrepair,” the consent order states. “The debris field included remnants of televisions and computers (including circuit boards). CRTs (broken and intact) were ubiquitous and were observed on the ground mixed throughout the vegetation and various e-waste debris throughout the outside perimeter of the North Building.”

The south building totals about 9,500 square feet, about 1,000 square feet of which holds e-scrap, according to the consent order. Roughly three-quarters of the CRTs stored in the south building are intact, with the rest broken.

Under the order, Crawford has hired consultants for the cleanup, which must be completed within two years. The consulting firm is charging nearly $22,600 for initial remedial strategy work, not including later stages of the cleanup, according to court documents.

Among other arguments, Crawford’s attorney said Crawford should be allowed to remain free of custody to continue working as a dispatch truck driver to maximize his earnings to meet his responsibilities to clean up the site. He also provided data showing that, in 2021, about 70% of total environmental crimes cases in federal court resulted in fines or probation but not confinement.

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