Officials: Criminal charges for wetlands violations a rarity as Union Township man faces six felonies

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A Union Township man has been charged with six felony counts related to wetlands violations after, according to court documents, he was told multiple times by county and state departments not to fill in the wetlands but did so anyway.

Matthew Hub, 41, was charged with six counts of violation of a state regulated wetland, a Level 6 felony, as well as one count of criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor, according to court documents filed in late April.

The criminal charges are a rarity, according to officials who assisted with the investigation.

“This is the first time that I know of where the department has been involved with criminal charges on wetlands. Enforcement actions to get people to comply, yes, criminal level, no,” Robert Thompson, Porter County’s director of development and stormwater management, said in an email.

The charges span from Nov. 24, 2021 through April 19 of this year and involve 2.5 acres of wetlands in Pine Township.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, or IDEM, received an anonymous complaint about the wetlands in November 2021 and, after an inspection of the property at 4980 U.S. 20, “it was determined that approximately 2.5 acres of forested wetlands had been cleared and had been filled in with gravel and asphalt” by Hub, documents state. He was notified of the violation on Dec. 12, 2021.

On Dec. 9 of that year, staff from the Porter County Department of Development and Storm Water Management inspected the property. Hub “was on site and admitted to clearing the land. He was served a stop order which he ignored,” according to court records.

An additional inspection of the property took place on Dec. 15, 2021 by an engineering firm Hub hired that “also instructed him to stop the work immediately, which he did not,” documents state.

About a month later, on Jan. 12, 2022, two criminal investigators with IDEM also conducted an inspection, when it was determined that “additional land fill was added to the property. No permits were obtained,” according to court records.

On July 19 of last year, an IDEM inspector again visited the property, documents state, and “it was determined that additional recontouring and asphalt had been added to the property … (Hub) continued to ignore the stop order and continued to destroy the Wetland.”

A final visit on April 19 by criminal investigators with IDEM, according to court documents, included an interview with a business owner on the property who told investigators that Hub “removed approximately ten thousand square feet of Wetlands on his property without his consent between November 2021 and January 2022.”

Indiana Code specifically related to violations of state-regulated wetland laws provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally violates a permit or statute pertaining to those wetlands and causes substantial harm to the wetlands commits a Level 6 felony, Barry Sneed, IDEM’s public information officer, said in an email.

“Over the past five years, IDEM’s Office of Criminal Investigations has presented or assisted in investigations that have resulted in 19 total criminal cases being filed in either a state or federal court. Of those 19 cases, two have involved wetland violations,” he said.

The business owner at 4980 W. U.S. 20 also told investigators that sometime around November 2021, Hub allegedly damaged the electrical lines leading to his business sign located on the northwest corner of the property, causing about $3,000 in repairs, according to court records.

Hub’s bond was set at $7,500, according to court records, and he has been released from Porter County Jail. His case has been assigned to Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary DeBoer.