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Tag: hole

Stejskal: The Hole-In-The-Truck Gang

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

It was a cold early spring Saturday morning, and I was following a lead in a rural part of Michigan. I had received a call on Friday afternoon that there was a unique piece of evidence on a farm near the Michigan/Ohio border.

When I got to the farm, I made contact with the owner and identified myself. He walked me to the back of an outbuilding. There parked in the weeds was a white cargo van with flat tires. The farmer opened the van’s back door. In the middle of the cargo bay was a circular hole that had been cut in the floor.

So why was I out here on a cold Saturday morning looking at a van with a hole in its floor?

It all started in the summer the year before, 1998. An Environmental Protection Agency /FBI task force that was working illegal dumping cases had received information that a waste disposal company near Ann Arbor, Michigan, was defrauding clients by not doing work and overcharging. There were also rumors that the company was surreptitiously creating spills which they then charged clients to clean-up. The information was fragmentary, and it was coming primarily from disgruntled employees.

The disposal firm was Hi-Po. Hi-Po had been in business for about 9 years. The founders Aaron Smith, who was just 26, and Stephen Carbeck (34) started with a pick-up and a power washer. They had grown Hi-Po to more than 100 employees and several vacuum trucks at well over $200,000 each. By all accounts Hi-Po had become extraordinarily successful with such clients as the University of Michigan and Chrysler.

In the summer of 1998, the EPA/FBI task force had learned that recently one of the Hi-Po employees had quit reportedly because he was upset with Hi-Po not performing work and then charging for the work that hadn’t been done.

That employee, Michael Stagg had retired from the Washtenaw County (Michigan) drain commissioner’s office prior to working at Hi-Po. EPA agent Greg Horvath and FBI agent, Steve Flattery, both from the task force, and I went to Stagg’s home in Ann Arbor. He wasn’t surprised to see us and said he had been thinking about coming to us.

Stagg was very forthcoming, but he only had limited direct knowledge. He had inspected a Hi-Po clean-up project in Riverview, a city south of Detroit. There he saw that Hi-Po had only done about ½ the work they had contracted to do, but Stagg was told Hi-Po billed Riverview for the whole job. (Later we learned that a Riverview official was receiving kickbacks.)

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