Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

August 27, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

East Baltimore Store Owner Believed to be First Convicted for Tire Dumping

Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today the sentencing of Stephen Nicholson, 34, of the 3500 block of Maryvale Road, Randallstown, for his conviction on two charges of illegal dumping of tires. The charges against Nicholson resulted from the Attorney General's initiative to combat illegal tire dumping in Baltimore City, Operation Tire Track. Nicholson is the first tire store owner or operator to ever be convicted of criminal dumping charges, even though he did not personally dump the tires.

A jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City convicted Nicholson after a three-day trial in May 2001. The two convictions relate to his causing or permitting litter in the 1900 block of N. Chester Street and the 4500 block of E. Lombard Street in March and April 2000. Judge Allen L Schwait of the Baltimore City Circuit Court sentenced Nicholson to a five-year suspended sentence and three years of supervised probation. Nicholson is the fourth individual convicted as part of the initiative. Two other defendants have already been sentenced to serve jail sentences from ranging from one year to 18 months. Three other defendants are awaiting trial and a fourth is wanted for failing to appear for trial. Nicholson faced up to five years in jail and/or a $25,000 fine on each of the two convictions.

Joining the Attorney General for the announcement earlier today at the Lombard Street site were Mayor O’Malley, Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director George Winfield and Maryland Department of the Environment Waste Management Administration Director Richard Collins, who praised the initiative and called for continued coordination among their agencies to tackle the tire dumping problem in Baltimore City.

Nicholson is the owner and operator of Tire Masters, a tire dealership located at 2100 East North Avenue in Baltimore City. By law, scrap tires must be collected and disposed of only at licensed facilities, which charge a fee for the disposal of tires. Those who haul scrap tires must also be licensed by the state. Tire stores and other commercial establishments that accumulate scrap tires must keep records showing where their scrap tires are shipped, the number of tires and the identity of the licensed hauler. Unlicensed haulers often collect tires from commercial establishments and dump them on City and privately-owned properties throughout the Baltimore.

Tire Masters continued to use unlicensed haulers to remove its tires after being told in February 2000 by an inspector from the Maryland Department of the Environment's Scrap Tire Program that it was illegal to do so. Testimony during trial showed that Nicholson knew the tires were being dumped and told the dumpers not to dump near his store. After learning that he was a target of an investigation, Nicholson forced one of the dumpers he used to generate fake receipts for tires already dumped.

"Not only are we targeting those who physically dump the tires, but those store operators responsible for creating the problem as well," Attorney General Curran said. "Nicholson knowingly hired unlicensed haulers for very low fees that he knew would dispose of them illegally. Baltimore City makes it very simple for owners and haulers to comply with the law and hopefully this multi-agency enforcement effort will encourage those who are currently breaking the law to start complying."

Operation Tire Track was developed by Attorney General Curran last year and is enforced by the Office of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, with assistance from the Baltimore City Police Department, the Maryland State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigations Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"The level of cooperation that we are receiving from the Attorney general's office, the Baltimore City Police Department and the Environmental Crimes Unit is crucial to efforts to stop the abuse of land area in the City by illegal dumpers," said Mayor O'Malley. "We want our streets and neighborhoods clean so they can be enjoyed by City residents and appreciated by visitors."