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Fugitive in Maine pollution case captured

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Fugitive in Maine pollution case captured

Fugitive in Maine pollution case captured

Harry Smith Jr., whose polluted salvage yards in Meddybemps, Maine, cost taxpayers millions of dollars and led to his becoming one of the state's most wanted fugitives, was captured in Everett yesterday working -- where else? -- at a salvage yard.

The 65-year-old former selectman was held without bail after a hearing at Chelsea District Court and has decided to fight rendition to Maine, where he faces charges of environmental violations and of failing to appear to serve a jail term. Officials in Maine said they are working to get him back in his hometown, where he left a legacy of rusted boxcars, hazardous chemicals, and dangerous acids.

''Finally, Harry Smith is going to receive the consequences of his conduct," said Leanne Robbin, the Maine assistant attorney general who prosecuted Smith in 2003 for state hazardous waste violations. ''He was pretty arrogant."

Smith, who pleaded not guilty yesterday to being a fugitive from justice, had been on the run for two years after racking up a decade of criminal violations and court orders for illegally handling hazardous and other types of waste materials, officials said.

US taxpayers have paid more than $20 million to clean up after Smith, who followed his father into the business of operating junkyards for military surplus materials in Meddybemps, a tiny town near the Canadian border.

Smith's pollution record includes a radioactive neutron generator that officials discovered nestled in weeds on his land off Route 191; a tractor-trailer packed with chemicals so reactive its side spontaneously melted in woods he owns; and half-century-old acids workers found leaking last year from containers stuffed in Smith's mother's basement next to the federally-protected Dennys River.

Smith was added to Maine's most wanted criminal list earlier this year. Officials say he failed to show up for a 2003 jail sentence on a probation violation. He was found yesterday by US marshals and State Police working at Wood Waste of Boston Inc. in Everett, where he has been living, officials said.

Smith sat quietly in handcuffs behind a courtroom partition yesterday, awaiting arraignment.

''This gentleman is 65 years old. He has five sons and six daughters," Smith's lawyer, David Bell, said to Judge Allen J. Jarasitis while requesting bail for his client. ''He does have family here."

Suffolk assistant district attorney Stephanie Soriano argued against granting bail, saying Smith had assumed a different name and may face federal charges.

''This defendant has been on the run for two years," she said. ''The level of hazardous material on his property was enormous. He is a flight risk."

Chuck Love, special investigator for the state attorney general's office in Maine, said putting Smith on Maine's most wanted list generated tips, but none led to his arrest. ''Certainly we are happy we caught him," Love said. ''He showed a lot of contempt . . . for the criminal justice system and environmental laws."

In Meddybemps, Smith was known as an affable resident who had many allies; there were few official complaints about his land. State officials received the first complaint about Smith's junkyards in 1983

Post Fri 04 Nov, 2005 7:25 am 
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