WEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – A West Miami-Dade property owner was arrested this week on accusations that he has been running an illegal landfill, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office announced on Tuesday.
Gelio Justino Hernandez, 55, is charged with two counts of operating an illegal landfill, which is a third-degree felony, and one count of failing to obtain a permit to store, process or dispose of solid waste, which is a first-degree misdemeanor.
Prosecutors said Hernandez operated the landfill on the southeast corner of Northwest 162nd Street and 122nd Avenue.
Authorities said the 3.34-acre site contained a massive pile of potentially combustible waste and refuse spread throughout the property to about 40 feet high.
The contents of the waste pile consisted of items such as wood, concrete, metal, roofing materials, carpet, five-gallon oil buckets, tires, plant debris and other unknown items, authorities said.
Prosecutors said Hernandez is listed as the property owner of the land on the Miami-Dade County Tax Roll and is well-known to DERM staffers because of prior contacts.
"Miami-Dade's pristine beauty is what draws people to our community," State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a news release. "Environmental crimes not only destroy that beauty, but they can endanger our water table and contaminate our air, posing health risks to everyone living here. I am proud to be partnering with the Miami-Dade Police Department and DERM to bring environmental criminals to justice."
Authorities said Miami-Dade police officers visited the site in December 2016 after debris caught fire, creating a large amount of smoke and forcing people on neighboring properties to evacuate their homes and businesses and move their animals to safer locations.
Prosecutors said it took Miami-Dade Fire Rescue crews two weeks to extinguish the fire because of the large amount of combustible materials at the location.
"The Miami-Dade Police Department is committed to promoting a safe and secure environment while improving the quality of life in our community," Miami-Dade Police Department Director Juan J. Perez said in a statement. "This investigation showcases the ongoing collaborative efforts, alongside our law enforcement and Miami-Dade County partners, to combat illegal dumping and environmental crimes affecting our neighborhoods."
Records show that Hernandez has been arrested multiple times over the last 15 years, mostly for environmental and business violations. But charges were always dismissed.
It was a different story, however, five years ago when Hernandez pleaded guilty to federal charges for running an unlicensed slaughterhouse on his property.
Undercover animal welfare activists documented what they called inhumane swine slaughter and illegal meat sales at the property.
Hernandez is being held in lieu of a $33,000 bond.