TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a man was sentenced today for illegally dumping huge quantities of solid waste from his rubbish removal business at unauthorized sites underneath highways in Newark, N.J.
Abdullah S. Bryant, 41, of Newark, N.J., who did business under various names, including International Rubbish Removal, was sentenced to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service by Superior Court Judge Mayra V. Tarantino in Essex County. Bryant pleaded guilty on Nov. 22, 2019 to a charge of third-degree criminal mischief. The state had requested a sentence of 364 days in the county jail as a condition of probation, but the judge imposed a sentence of noncustodial probation. Bryant will be required to pay restitution for the costs of clean-ups conducted at the dumping sites, in an amount to be determined in a separate court hearing.
Deputy Attorney General Gezim Bajrami prosecuted Bryant for the Division of Criminal Justice. Bryant was indicted in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, Environmental Crimes Unit, assisted by the DOT Office of the Inspector General, New Jersey Transit Police Department, and Amtrak Police Department. Additional assistance was provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Labor, and Department of Health.
The investigation revealed that Bryant illegally collected, transported and dumped more than 100 cubic yards of solid waste at a site owned by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) underneath elevated sections of I-78 and U.S. Route 22 between Frelinghuysen Avenue and the Northeast Corridor Rail Line. He also illegally dumped an unspecified quantity of solid waste on DOT- and Amtrak-owned property located under the Route 21 overpass near Poinier Street. The illegal dumping occurred between January 2016 and April 2017.
“We are committed to protecting New Jersey’s environment and the health of our residents using every tool at our disposal, including both civil actions and criminal prosecutions,” said Attorney General Grewal. “It is especially important that we hold polluters accountable when they dump waste and hazardous materials in disadvantaged areas, believing that no one will care. We absolutely do care, and we are stepping up our environmental enforcement efforts statewide to crack down on such crimes.”
“The judge in this case did not impose the 364-day jail sentence that we requested under the terms of the plea agreement, but Bryant is now a convicted felon who is responsible for paying restitution for the cleanups conducted at these sites,” Attorney General Grewal added. “These are not victimless crimes; they are crimes that victimize entire communities. We intend to work even harder to ensure that polluters face justice and that all of our residents can live and work in a clean, healthy environment.”
In October 2019, Attorney General Grewal issued a new Environmental Crimes Handbook to train law enforcement officers across New Jersey about the range of environmental crimes defined in the state criminal code and to encourage stronger enforcement efforts to root out such crimes and hold violators accountable:
“We have zero tolerance for polluters who threaten our environment and the welfare of our residents through their illegal activities,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our Environmental Crimes Unit will continue to work with government partners and law enforcement at all levels to prosecute those who harm our communities by illegally dumping waste.”
In March 2017, the DOT Office of the Inspector General alerted the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) about the illegal dump site under I-78 and U.S. 22. Later that month, the NJ Transit Police alerted DCJ about the second illegal dump site under Route 21. DCJ investigators inspected the sites and found extensive quantities of solid waste at each location. The debris field under I-78/U.S. 22 was roughly 1,000 feet long by 500 feet wide. The debris field under Route 21 was about 1,200 feet long and 50 to 150 feet in width. The solid waste included, among other things, household items, discarded paper, construction materials, flammables, asbestos, medical waste, lead paint, and other hazardous materials.
Investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice examined the solid waste to identify suspected points of origin. They conducted numerous interviews at the source locations, identifying Bryant as the individual who was paid to remove waste from those locations. Bryant was not authorized by the DEP to collect solid waste or dispose of it at the sites in question, as required by state law.
The DOT and its contractors conducted a cleanup at the illegal dump site under I-78 and U.S. 22, and Amtrak hired contractors to conduct a cleanup at the illegal dump site under Route 21. The I-78 site is the same elevated stretch of I-78 that suffered severe structural damage in August 1989 due to an illegal solid waste dump that caught fire.
Deputy Attorney General Gezim Bajrami presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, Environmental Crimes Unit, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline Smith and former Bureau Chief Andrew Johns. Detective Sgt. Steven Ogulin was the lead detective for the Division of Criminal Justice. Attorney General Grewal thanked the DOT Office of the Inspector General, New Jersey Transit Police Department, Amtrak Police Department, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Labor, and Department of Health.