Big raid on Santa Rosa dismantling yard, tow service

  • Department of Toxic Substances Control personnel aid the Santa Rosa Police Department in an environmental investigation at Creams Dismantling & Scrap, in Santa Rosa on Monday, May 9, 2011.

Law enforcement authorities descended on two Santa Rosa auto businesses Monday as part of an investigation into alleged mishandling of toxic substances, including engine fluids and fuels.

The day-long search operation targeted Cream's Dismantling and Scrap on Copperhill Lane off Airport Boulevard and Cream's Towing on Santa Rosa Avenue. Authorities also searched the Larkfield home of Joseph Cream Jr., 47, who owns both businesses.

The coordinated effort between seven local and state law enforcement and environmental agencies began about 9:30 a.m. and involved search warrants being served at all three locations.

Santa Rosa police, who are leading the investigation, said they were looking for evidence of illegal disposal and handling of vehicle fluids and other hazardous waste.

Some of the suspected activity could have affected local surface waters, said Santa Rosa Sgt. Mike Lazzarini.

He said the investigation was still in its preliminary stage but declined to say when it started.

On April 21, a manager and an employee at Cream's Dismantling and Scrap were arrested for removing police surveillance cameras mounted on a neighboring business.

Lazzarini confirmed the cameras were part of the investigation. He said no charges have been filed against the manager, James Atwood, 45, of Rohnert Park, and Arthur Pereira, 44, of Santa Rosa.

In 2004, Joseph Cream Jr. and one of his managers, Brian Wallace, were arrested on suspicion of illegally selling and disposing of gasoline siphoned from abandoned vehicles. At the time, the company had contracts with the city of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County and the California Highway Patrol to tow and crush abandoned vehicles.

The city and county promptly cancelled their contracts and the company later settled the case, agreeing to pay $25,000 in restitution for dismissal of the felony charges.

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