NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio -- Tens of thousands of fish were found dead in a local river and on Wednesday a husband and wife were charged with poisoning them.
In April of this year, nearly 31,000 dead fish were found floating in a three mile stretch of the Rocky River.
Federal and state officials announced charges against Renato Montorsi, 79, and his wife Teresina, 74, along with their collectible coin company located in Strongsville, Kennedy Mint, Inc.
"Last April, Mr. Montorsi tried to dispose of a drum of liquid cyanide by putting it in a dumpster, the drum was marked as being toxic, clearly labeled as such and it clearly had the poison sign, the skull and crossbones on the drum," said Steven Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Investigators said the garbage company refused to take the dumpster, and allege that Montorsi found his own way of disposing of the chemical.
"He took a hammer and a sharp metal object, according to the indictment, and punched a hole in the drum after he had moved it to a storm drain, a storm drain that fed directly into a branch of the Rocky River," Dettelbach said.
"I've never seen a case that involved this many dead fish," said assistant U.S. attorney Brad Beeson.
Montorsi and Kennedy Mint, Inc. will both be charged with four counts each: violation of the Clean Water Act, conspiracy and two counts of obstruction of justice.
Investigators said Montorsi's wife, Teresina, didn't assist in the dumping, but was arrested for trying to cover up the crime by assisting in hiding the empty drums at their home in Grafton.
She is also charged with conspiracy and two counts of obstruction.
"They just denied knowledge of the barrel, when in fact that barrel was at their home. When someone puts something into a drain, it doesn't go 'nowhere,' it always goes somewhere, and in this instance, 'somewhere' was right there and because of his actions, 30,000 fish died," Beeson said.
"Today's indictment and the actions of law enforcement behind me should send a clear message that we intend to vigorously investigate and when the evidence supports it, prosecute those individuals who would rob the rest of the community of one of our most precious natural resources," said Dettelbach.
Investigators said the Rocky River is safe and clean now because liquid cyanide quickly dissolves and dilutes.
If convicted of the charges, the couple could face at least 30 years in federal prison.
Both are expected to be formally charged in federal court early next week.