On June 3, Fiolkowski admitted that he had threatened the company's owners with a rifle, stolen their credit cards, forged their names on checks, burglarized their offices and broken into tractor-trailers stored at Lightman's yard on Route 73. He pleaded guilty to 12 of 44 criminal charges against him in two indictments.
Lightman Drum and its owner, Jerome Lightman, were convicted in 1981 in Philadelphia of more than 30 counts each of bribery and conspiracy in connection with dumping toxic wastes at a landfill near the Philadelphia International Airport. Lightman, who was sentenced to one to seven years, also was a defendant last year in a Burlington County case charging him with disposing of hazardous waste by mixing it with heating oil. That case ended in a mistrial.
"There is a history of hatred from the Fiolkowski family toward my family and toward my business," Earl Lightman, Jerome's brother and a former employee of the firm, said in an interview after yesterday's proceeding. ''The crimes started out small, and then they started to get serious.
"He threatened to kill me, my wife and my child. He threatened to kill my brother and his family. I'm in fear of my life. I believe some kind of prison situation is just."
Fiolkowski's mother, Catherine, said yesterday in an interview that Earl Lightman has "been saying he's living in fear of his life. That's the biggest joke. We're the ones living in fear."
She said her son was about 12 when he discovered a pit that she said was used by Lightman Drum to store toxic wastes. Since then, she said, the family has had to live with noxious odors and the popping sound of the metal barrels expanding and contracting with the temperature.
"Paul has done wrong," she said, weeping. "He decided to take matters into his own hands because nobody else did." She said efforts to interest Winslow Township and various government agencies in investigating or shutting down Lightman had been unsuccessful.
Earl Lightman, who now has his own sewer-cleaning business and is no longer affiliated with Lightman Drum Co., and his brother Jerome were confronted Jan. 10 by Fiolkowski, who pointed a .22-caliber rifle at them outside their office. Fiolkowski admitted in court to threatening them and taking their wallets.
He also admitted, said Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Donna Sears, to breaking into a number of tractor-trailers stored at Lightman's yard on Aug. 7, 1982, and to forging Jerome Lightman's name on checks he cashed during a five-week period in August 1983.
In return for Fiolkowski's guilty plea, Sears agreed not to charge him in connection with a September arson fire at Lightman Drum, which has a Berlin mailing address but is actually in Winslow. Twenty families were forced to evacuate their homes in the incident, and several firefighters and a police officer required treatment.
A year after Lightman's 1981 conviction and the conviction of others accused of dumping at the landfill, a federal Environmental Protection Agency official described the landfill site as comparable to the Love Canal toxic dump site in upstate New York and estimated that the cleanup would cost $10 million.