CLEVELAND, Ohio (WKBN) – The case against Ben Lupo and one of his employees charged with dumping drilling waste in a storm sewer in Youngstown is beginning to wrap up. The first step in that process began Thursday in federal court in Cleveland.
Despite facing up to three years in prison, Michael Guesman, 35, of Cortland, walked away from court after being placed on three years probation for his role in the brine-dumping case.
“Mr. Guesman’s sentence was significantly reduced because of his cooperation in the case,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson.
Guesman was indicted last year along with his former boss Ben Lupo for violating the Clean Water Act. At the time, Guesman was working for Hardrock Excavating, one of Lupo’s oil and gas drilling businesses.
During court proceedings, Guesman’s lawyer told the judge Lupo ordered brine and other waste dumped down a storm drain on his property because the company had accepted more waste liquid than it could handle. When Guesman questioned it, he says Lupo told him the waste was going to a treatment center where it would be diluted.
Even when he realized the brine ended up in the Mahoning River, Guesman continued to do as he was told saying he was fearful he would lose his job if he complained.
After his arrest, Guesman went to the federal agents.
“He provided information that helped us run down the other leads in the case,” said Beeson. “(He) has been very helpful to the government.”
Guesman said in court that he was sorry for everything he did hoping everybody understands why. The judge told Guesman his cooperation with the government helped him dodge what he called a “gigantic bullet.”
“We’re just thrilled with the result, it was the appropriate result,” said Carolyn Kucharski, Guesman’s attorney.
As part of his sentence, Guesman must also perform 300 hours of community service. His old boss, Ben Lupo, is expected in court Monday to enter a plea in the case.
Prosecutors said the cleanup from the brine spill totaled $3 million, making it the most expensive they have seen.