Robert Fred Smith, a fugitive since 2006, made his initial appearance last week before the District Court, Southern District of California in San Diego, to face Clean Water Act (CWA) and other charges pending against him. Smith was returned to the U.S. after surrendering to law enforcement authorities in Malta on July 25, 2009.
Smith had been one of 20 current fugitives listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fugitive Website atwww.epa.gov/fugitives. The web tool is designed to enlist the public and other law enforcement agencies in tracking down fugitives accused of violating environmental laws and evading arrest.
Smith worked for Joseph O’Connor, president and owner of Britannia Shipping International, a ship brokering business based in Malta. During 2005-6, the F/V Maru, a 150-foot fishing vessel owned by O’Connor that was docked in San Diego, underwent renovation work that produced concrete waste, scrap metal, and grinding waste. The U.S. Coast Guard received allegations that O'Connor and Smith were dumping all the waste overboard at night.
On August 10, 2007, a six-count indictment was returned in the Southern District of California charging Britannia Shipping, LTD, LLC, O'Connor, and Smith with conspiracy, unlawful discharge of pollutants, unlawful discharge of plastics, and three counts of false statements.
Interpol issued a "Wanted Persons Diffusion and Red Notice" for both O'Connor and Smith in the fall of 2008. Both were suspected of being in Malta. A new Extradition Treaty between the United States of America and the Government of Malta went into effect on July 1, 2009.
Based on a tip to the EPA Fugitive Website and an extensive investigation conducted by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agents assigned to Malta, and the FBI, the government confirmed that O'Connor was residing in Malta. He was arrested there on July 15, 2009 and is currently in custody and going through the extradition process. After O’Connor was arrested, Smith contacted Malta law enforcement authorities and turned himself in.