A man accused of dumping radioactive oilfield waste at an abandoned gas station in northwest North Dakota more than three years ago has been placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of criminal fugitives.
James Kenneth Ward, 55, faces federal fraud charges connected with illegally disposing waste known as filter socks in the small town of Noonan. Hundreds of filter socks, which contain radioactive oilfield waste, were stockpiled in the former gas station in Divide County.
The EPA said in a news release Tuesday that Ward is wanted by the agency’s criminal investigation division and should be considered violent and dangerous.
Earlier this year, Ward was indicted in federal court for the district of Montana on two charges related to wire fraud connected to the illegal dumping in North Dakota.
A grand jury indictment says Ward and others conspired between April 2011 and February 2014 to defraud Zenith Produced Water by claiming to properly dispose of filter socks owned by the company but instead dumping them in the building. Checks from Zenith totaling nearly $10,000 were deposited into a bank account in Deer Lodge, Mont., in exchange for the disposal, the indictment states.
Ward has not been charged in North Dakota for illegal dumping of waste, but North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Tuesday he could still be charged because the statute of limitations doesn’t apply to fugitives.
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation was assisting the EPA in its investigation of Ward, Stenehjem said. The EPA took over the case in April of 2015 because the witnesses involved were no longer in North Dakota, but in Montana, Idaho and possibly Arizona, Stenehjem said.
“The feds kind of took over the investigation and prosecution,” he said. “That’s not to say that he won’t potentially face charges here in North Dakota as well, when he’s located. We’d love to find him and deal with him.”
A settlement agreement with Zenith Produced Water required the company to pay about $20,000 to the North Dakota Industrial Commission in fines and fees and required the company to cooperate with the criminal investigation.
Ward was last seen in March 2013 during a prison transport from Phoenix to Wyoming. The EPA said Ward was already a fugitive and returned to the United States from Mexico to face state larceny charges when he escaped in a Wyoming desert.
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