A 79-year-old Grafton man is facing federal criminal charges for allegedly dumping a drum of liquid cyanide into a storm drain that flowed into a branch of the Rocky River and killing more than 30,000 fish.
Renato Montorsi’s 74-year-old wife, Teresina Montorsi, also faces charges for allegedly helping her husband cover up evidence of his involvement in the fish kill, according to an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury Wednesday.
Renato Montorsi runs Kennedy Mint Inc. in Strongsville, a company that specializes in collectable coins, but used to do metal plating and printing options, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio Steven Dettelbach. Cyanide is sometimes used in plating and printing processes.
The indictment said that Montorsi tried to dispose of two drums on April 16 by placing them in a garbage bin outside his company, but the waste hauler who collected trash from the facility refused to take the drums the next day.
On April 18, Montorsi and two other people, who aren’t named in the indictment, took the drums out of the Dumpster and placed them next to a storm water drain in the company’s parking lot.
Montorsi then used a hammer and a sharp metal tool to punch a hole near the bottom of one of the drums, which was marked by a poison label and was nearly full of liquid cyanide, according to prosecutors.
The poison then flowed into the storm drain, which discharges into a tributary of the East Branch of the Rocky River just upstream from Bonnie Park in Strongsville.
On April 22 which was Earth Day, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources began receiving reports of dead fish in the East Brach of the Rocky River. A resident in the park told investigators they had spotted distressed fish the day before.
“Specifically, fish were seen rising to the surface of the water and gulping for air,” the indictment said.
By April 23, ODNR officials were sent to the river to determine the extent of the fish kill, which began near Bonnie Park. “Downstream of Bonnie Park, and for the next three miles, nearly every fish in the river was dead,” the indictment said. “The Ohio ODNR counted approximately 30,893 dead fish over that three-mile stretch of the river.”
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency asked to inspect the Kennedy Mint facility on April 25 and investigators were eventually allowed inside.
But according to the indictment, Teresina Montorsi stalled investigators while her husband hid the punctured drum in the back of a warehouse. The drum wasn’t discovered during that search and later that day the couple allegedly moved the punctured drum and another drum containing cyanide to their Grafton home.
When a federal search warrant was executed April 27, the couple denied knowing where the punctured drum was located, according to prosecutors. The Montorsis again denied knowing where the drum was when asked by a federal agent May 16.
The drum was finally found by investigators next to a storage shed outside the Montorsis’ Grafton home June 22.
Renato Montorsi and his company are both charged with violating the Clean Water Act, conspiracy and two counts of obstruction of justice. Teresina Montorsi faces a conspiracy charge and two counts of obstruction of justice.
“Our natural resources must be protected from illegal discharges,” Randall Ashe, special agent in charge of the U.S. EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio, said in the news release. “This prosecution sends a clear message that crimes against the environment will not be tolerated and will be vigorously prosecuted.”
The Montorsis did not return a call seeking comment on Wednesday.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or email@example.com.