A Los Angeles restaurant owner has been sentenced in the sale of unpasteurized cheese that was purchased from a street vendor.

City Attorney spokesman Frank Mateljan announced Thursday that Magdaleno Mendoza, the owner of Mariscos Puerto Escondido restaurant, was sentenced after entering a no contest plea to two counts of violating health and safety codes.

Judge Robert Vanderet sentenced Mendoza to three years of probation, 60 days in jail or 30 days community labor.

The illegal cheese was discovered in the restaurant refrigerator during a random inspection in Aug. 2010.

The cheese tested positive for raw milk and for staph and listeria bacteria.

Bacteria found in unpasteurized milk and cheese can cause miscarriages in pregnant women, diarrhea, fever and other problems.


Tierra Environmental, its owner, Ronald Holmes, and manager Stewart Roth were federally charged with illegally discharging wastewater into Hammond Sanitary District sewers from a closed facility.

Roth is the former district manager of the Hammond Sanitary District and was indicted on federal charges in 1988 for falsifying documents to conceal the illegal dumping of as much as 12 billion gallons of untreated, hazardous industrial waste into the Grand Calumet River. He pleaded guilty in 1990, was sentenced to three years probation, paid a fine of $5,000 and served 500 hours of community service.
Tierra Environmental, 3821 Indianapolis Blvd., charged customers to dispose of polluted wastewater but allegedly dumped the untreated waste directly into the Hammond sewer system in a shuttered facility owned by Holmes at 3 141st St., according to the latest indictment.
Tierra’s East Chicago facility did not hold a permit to discharge industrial waste to the East Chicago Sanitary District’s sewer system and the facility’s connection to that sanitary system was sealed shut.
“There was a series of enforcement actions and violations ongoing with the East Chicago Sanitary District against them,” said Joseph Allegretti, the Dyer attorney who serves as corporate counsel to the city of East Chicago and the Hammond Sanitary District.
“Their clandestine access (to the East Chicago sanitary system) was removed,” Allegretti said.
After that closure, to legally dispose of the hazardous materials it collected from customers, the company would have had to transport it to other facilities for final treatment or disposal.
But the indictment alleges that on or around January 2008, Holmes told “one or more co-conspirators” that Tierra would begin discharging wastewater collected from customers down the sump and into the Hammond facility, according to the indictment. Holmes allegedly ordered a dispatcher to direct drivers to haul wastewater to the Hammond facility.
Holmes then allegedly discharged the wastewater directly into the Hammond sanitary sewer system.
That facility is just north of Hermits Park near the Illinois border. The park is home to numerous youth baseball fields in a residential neighborhood.
On Friday, the 141st Street facility was overgrown with weeds and ivy on the fence, with soiled vacuum trucks on the site visible from the street.
“I don’t think there’s any evidence that this activity created an environmental upset of the (Hammond Sanitary District) treatment facility or direct evidence that this activity caused a violation of their permit,” Allegretti said.
Holmes is owner, president and secretary for Tierra. Roth is a project manager and had been with the company since 2005.
If convicted, Holmes and Roth face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy count, three years on each of the Clean Water Act counts and a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for each count. The feds said the company also could face fines and probation.
Neither Holmes nor his attorney, Scott King, of Merrillville, could be reached for comment on the allegations.
Roth and his attorney, William Padula, of Munster, also were unable for comment.
Roth has faced other allegations of environmental violations in addition to the 1988 indictment.
In 2002, Roth was helping lead the construction and operation of Advanced Waste Services of Indiana Inc., another wastewater treatment facility, when East Chicago shut it down for operating without a permit and improperly storing hazardous waste at 4440 Homerlee Ave.