Prominent local businessman and philanthropist Steve Rauch is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 13 to face illegal dumping charges that carry the potential for years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
West Carrollton officials said if Rauch is found guilty, they also hope to recoup costs from Rauch and his companies. That includes what the city spent to remove more than 30 tons of illegal materials buried in land it owns and increasing security on the site that is targeted for future recreation use.
Meanwhile, an investigation of Rauch and his companies involving local, state and federal agencies continues. It’s unclear what the focus is of the continuing probe.
Rauch, 63, is a man who has literally changed Dayton’s skyline with his company’s demolition work. He has made headlines both for charitable giving and for controversial business dealings.
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Rauch owns the excavation, demolition and trucking companies Steve Rauch Inc., Rauch Trucking, and SRI, which includes a construction debris landfill in Dayton. His trucks are ubiquitous at construction sites across the Miami Valley.
“Our customers include private, institutional, municipal, state and federal agencies with projects that range in size from as little as One Thousand Dollars ($1,000) to over Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000),” his company’s website says.
He is a major sponsor of the charity boxing event Dayton History Fight Night at Memorial Hall, and his $1.5 million donation in 2016 to Kettering Health Network’s comprehensive cancer center was the largest individual donation to that campaign.
Rauch is being charged in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court with a number of felonies. His operations manager Jennifer Copeland, and his businesses SRI and cattle farm Bearcreek Farms are also charged in the indictments.
Charges include several allegations of illegal dumping at three locations. One is a city of West Carrollton property that Rauch was permitted to use a dump site in 2016. Another is his licensed landfill. The third is Bearcreek Farms in Jefferson Twp.
Rauch is charged with three counts of open dumping and burning and two counts of operating a solid waste facility without a license. Copeland is charged with three counts of open dumping and burning, as well as a single count of illegal operation or maintenance of a construction or demolition debris facility.
Each count of open dumping and complicity to open dumping carries a fine of at least $10,000 to no more than $25,000; or prison for at least two years but not more than four years, according to officials with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
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Search warrants used in a December 2016 raid of Rauch’s properties remain sealed amid an ongoing investigation, officials say.
The investigation is being led by the Southern District of Ohio Financial and Electronic Crimes Task Force, a partnership that includes the U.S. Secret Service, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and local law enforcement agencies, including West Carrollton police. They are working with Ohio EPA on this case.
“The U.S. Secret Service, as a matter of policy, does not comment on active investigations,” said Kevin Dye, a spokesman for the Secret Service.
Rauch has faced accusations of mishandling fill material before. Rauch had all his contracts with the city of Dayton terminated in 2014 and didn’t do work for the city for several years after the city found Rauch’s workers used improper fill material after home demolitions, a Dayton Daily News investigation found last year.
Rauch has since resumed contracting with the city and was paid $267,320 for work in 2016 and 2017.
He was also involved in a legal battle with the company that was supposed to redevelop the former Dayton Daily News building, which resulted in Rauch getting ownership of the land and selling it to the city for $450,000.
West Carrollton site still closed
More than 30 tons of illegal materials were removed from West Carrollton-owned property that the city was allowing four contractors — including Rauch — to use for dumping in 2016.
Health officials closed the 30-acre site at 4000 Hydraulic Road in February of that year after the illegal activities were discovered. A criminal investigation followed.
“They were one of the four” contractors, West Carrollton City Manager Brad Townsend said of Rauch. “We suspected it was one of the four that were permitted to do that.
“And, according to the investigation, it was Rauch,” he added. “So we’ll see how it shakes out. But we’re pleased that they got to the bottom of it.”
At the time, the city was working to fill the land with legal material to redevelop it for future recreational use. The city initially estimated clean-up costs to be between $350,000 and $700,000.
However, it paid about $6,600 to Ohio Operating Engineers for the project after that company basically volunteered time and services, Townsend said.
The city also invested about $45,000 in security at the Hydraulic Road site, and is looking to recoup all costs associated with clean up and security work, Townsend said.
The site has never reopened to the public, he added.