A carrier owner who was convicted of multiple felonies including conspiracy, fraud, and obstruction of justice has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison. That’s less than 1% of the maximum prison sentence he could have faced.
In December of 2012, a Woody’s Trucking driver hauled natural gas condensate (“drip gas”) from the Bakken oil fields to a processing plant in Wilbaux, MT. Drip gas is a highly flammable hazardous material and should have required the proper hazmat training, placarding, and insurance coverage. Instead, the bill of lading claimed that the truck was carrying only slop oil and water.
When the truck arrived at the Custom Carbon Processing facility, the driver began pumping out the drip gas. The vapors from the gas ignited and caused an explosion. Three CCP employees were injured in the resulting blaze, which burned for eight days. Firefighters were not able to put out the fire since they didn’t know that it had been caused by drip gas, not slop oil.
When the flames finally died down, Donald E. Wood Jr., owner of Woody’s Trucking, sent one of his drivers to plant a false bill of lading in the wreckage. He also submitted the falsified information to his insurance company and to federal investigators.
Investigators also found that his company had been illegally hauling drip gas for 10 months before the accident occurred.
Wood and his company were both charged with the same crimes. They were found guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, placarding violations, and obstruction of justice.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Dake, Wood engaged in “deceitful, fraudulent and dangerous conduct, manipulating his otherwise legitimate business practices, in order to line his own pockets.”
Wood was facing a maximum of up to 145 years in prison and fines totaling up to $3.5 million. Instead, he was sentenced to just one year and one day in prison and three years of probation. He and the company were jointly ordered to pay $1,289,370.40.