Five defendants were charged in Riverside with conspiring to violate federal law in an alleged scheme that included an illegal tanker repair that resulted in a fatal explosion, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
The four-count federal indictment filed late Wednesday outlines two years of alleged illegal and unauthorized tanker repairs, culminating with a May 6, 2014, explosion that killed a company welder and severely injured a second worker, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Members of the alleged conspiracy also helped rename the company after federal regulators ordered it to take its cargo tanks off the road, according to federal prosecutors.
The indictment charges Carl Bradley Johansson, 59, of Corona, the owner of the trucking companies; Enrique “Henry” Garcia, 43, of Pomona, Johansson’s shop manager, who supervised the welders who allegedly illegally repaired cargo tankers; and Donald Cameron Spicer, 66, of Fullerton, who was the safety manager at Johansson’s companies.
The indictment also charges Johansson’s Corona-based trucking companies, National Distribution Services Inc., which operated from about 2009 through 2015, and NDSI’s successor company, Wholesale Distribution Inc., which does business as Quality Services.
Johansson allegedly created WDI to take over NDSI’s operations so he could continue to operate the cargo tanks that had been ordered out of service.
All five defendants are charged with participating in a scheme to conduct illegal repairs on cargo tanks used to transport gasoline and to obstruct the U.S. Department of Transportation, which enforces federal laws related to the trucking industry, including the repair of cargo tanks.
After doing in-house repairs on at least a half-dozen cargo tanks — even though NDSI was not certified to conduct such repairs — Johansson and Garcia on May 5, 2014, discussed directing two NDSI workers to conduct welding on a cargo tank, the indictment alleges.
The following day, Garcia allegedly issued the orders to the employees, even after one of the welders told Garcia that it was not safe. The two workers began a welding project on the cargo tank, which caused an explosion that killed one worker and seriously injured the man who had warned Garcia, according to the indictment.
Later that day, when investigators arrived at NDSI, Johansson identified himself as being a customer service representative with another company and said the welders were employed by an outside tank-repair company, the indictment alleges.
In August 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an imminent hazard order — commonly called an “Out-of-Service Order” — to NDSI, which prohibited the company from operating about 37 cargo tanks to haul gasoline or ethanol because the FMCSA determined that those cargo tanks presented safety risks, according to the indictment.
Nevertheless, Johansson allegedly continued to use them to transport gasoline and ethanol. Johansson and NDSI also allegedly submitted false statements to the FMCSA in an attempt to have the order rescinded by the agency.
The indictment alleges that Johansson signed, under oath, an affidavit that falsely claimed NDSI had never engaged in tank repairs and that Garcia worked for an outside tank-repair company.
In an attempt to circumvent the FMCSA’s Out-of-Service Order, Johansson, at the end of 2014, began a process to convert NDSI to operate under the WDI name, the indictment alleges.
All five defendants are charged with conspiring to violate federal law by causing illegal repairs to be conducted on the cargo tanks and defrauding the Department of Transportation. The indictment further charges Johansson, Garcia and NDSI with welding without required certifications, in violation of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Statute.
Johansson is further charged with one count of making a false statement to the Department of Transportation for allegedly falsely telling investigators that he did not discuss with Garcia the repair of the cargo tank prior to the explosion. Spicer also faces a charge of making a false statement to the FMCSA by failing to disclose that WDI was directly linked to NDSI.
The indictment follows the filing of two criminal complaints earlier this month. Garcia was arrested on the night of April 9 as he crossed the international border into San Diego County, and Johansson was arrested on April 10 at his business. Spicer, who was named in a second complaint, was taken into custody on April 11.
Spicer is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on May 9 in Riverside, and Johansson’s arraignment is scheduled for May 16. Garcia’s arraignment has not yet been set.
The case will be tried in Los Angeles before U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.