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NE Ohio man gets 28 months in prison for illegal dumping of fluids from drilling operations

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CLEVELAND — The owner of a northeast Ohio business that collected and stored toxic fluids from oil and gas drilling operations was sentenced Tuesday in Cleveland to 28 months in federal prison and fined $25,000.

Ben Lupo, 64, of Poland, Ohio, had hoped to receive probation or home detention because of his various physical ailments. His attorneys said he had a kidney transplant in 2010 and receives dialysis five days a week. Prosecutors had asked for 36 months and a $250,000 fine.

"Clean air and fresh water is the birthright of every man, woman and child in this state," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said in a statement after the sentencing. "Intentionally breaking environmental laws is not the cost of doing business, it's going to cost business owners their freedom."

Lupo pleaded guilty to one count of unpermitted discharge into U.S. waters in March. He was accused of ordering workers from his company, Hardrock Excavating, of dumping toxic sludge and brine down a storm sewer 33 times from October 2012 to January 2013. The fluids, which contained diesel oil, benzene, toluene, barium and chlorides, reached a tributary of the Mahoning River.

One of his employees pleaded guilty in March to the same charge and received three months of probation and 300 hours of community service.

"I'm disappointed," said Lupo attorney Roger Synenberg. "We had hoped for a different result."

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