December 17, 2014

Elyria
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29°F
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Woman fined for helping cover up killing of 30,000 fish with cyanide

A Grafton woman was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine for helping her husband cover up that he was responsible for a fish kill in the Rocky River last year.

Teresina Montorsi, 76, pleaded guilty in May to a federal obstruction of justice charge in connection with the deaths of more than 30,000 fish following the illegal dumping of liquid cyanide into the East Branch of the Rocky River in April 2012.

Her husband, Renato Montorsi, was originally charged in the case, but those charges were dropped after it was determined he was incompetent to stand trial for puncturing a drum of cyanide and letting it drain into a storm sewer that flowed into the Rocky River. Court documents said he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and renal failure.

The couple’s company, Kennedy Mint, agreed to pay $30,893 to restock the river with steelhead trout. That works out to $1 per fish, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson said. The company will also pay $300,000 to the Cleveland Metroparks to rehabilitate rivers in the park system, he said.

“The fish kill was significant,” Beeson said. “Over 10 years of doing this I’ve never seen a case of such significant environmental damage.”

Renato Montorsi, 80, first tried to dispose of two drums by placing them in a garbage bin on April 16, 2012, at the company’s Strongsville facility, but the waste hauler refused to take them the next day, according to court documents.

That prompted Montorsi to place the drums next to a storm drain in Kennedy Mint’s parking lot on April 18, 2012, prosecutors wrote. He then took a hammer and a sharp metal tool and punctured the drum, draining the cyanide into the storm sewer.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources began receiving reports of dead fish on April 22, 2012, which was Earth Day. Prosecutors wrote that the fish kill extended nearly three miles down the river.

When investigators from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency went to the company three days later, they didn’t locate the drums. Prosecutors have said Teresina Montorsi stalled the investigators while her husband hid the drums in the back of the warehouse.

After investigators left the Montorsis moved the drums to their Grafton home, where they were located June 22, 2012, according to court documents.

Teresina Montorsi’s lawyers wrote in a sentencing memorandum that she did not know what she had driven back to her house until she arrived there.

“Mrs. Montorsi’s conduct was less about hindering the government’s investigation and more about obeying and protecting her ailing husband,” her attorneys wrote.

Beeson said that Kennedy Mint was placed on probation for two years, but the company is in the process of closing.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.