News and Press Releases

West Bloomfield Man Sentenced for Delivering
a False Document Regarding Hazardous Material

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2012

A West Bloomfield man received a $5,000 fine for delivering a false document regarding a hazardous material, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.

Joining McQuade in the announcement was Randall Ashe, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement program in Chicago.

Douglas Vincent Mertz, 38, was sentenced by United States District Judge Denise Page Hood. Mertz pleaded guilty to the charge on November 9, 2011. In addition to the fine, Mertz was sentenced to one year probation and restitution up to $750.

Federal law makes it illegal to sell the refrigerant "R-22" to any person who is not certified under a program approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, unless the buyer is otherwise legally allowed to purchase such refrigerants under Clean Air Act regulations. Certain refrigerants, such as R-22 can, damage the earth's ozone layer if they are released to the atmosphere. The ozone layer protects the earth from overexposure of ultraviolet radiation (UV) produced by the sun. Overexposure of UV radiation is believed to be linked to an increase in skin cancers, immune system suppression, eye damage, and negative effects on plants and aquatic life. The EPA's certification program ensures that individuals who work with ozone-depleting refrigerants like R-22 are trained to properly and safely handle these substances and minimize their release to the atmosphere.

In August and September, 2009, Mertz advertised the sale of R-22 on Craig's List with postings such as, "If you cannot get R-22 on your own, no EPA card or license, we can do business," and, "I have virgin 30 lb jugs of R-22 that I will sell to anyone who can't otherwise get one for EPA or license reasons and the distributors deny you." Mertz, who himself was certified, then obtained ten containers of R-22 refrigerant and sold them to a person who was neither certified nor otherwise legally allowed to purchase the R-22. The buyer was in fact an undercover federal agent. To conceal the illegal sale, Mertz prepared a document that falsely identified the buyer as an employee of the defendant's business.

As part of his sentence, Mertz was required to surrender his EPA certification, which allowed him to purchase and work with refrigerants such as R-22.

Mertz's accomplice, Wasim Ibrahim Bony, was sentenced on April 19, 2012. Bony, who pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting Mertz in knowingly making and delivering as true a writing containing a false statement, was sentenced to pay a $1,500 criminal fine, and ordered to pay up to $750 in restitution, jointly and severally, with Mertz.

"Refrigerants like R-22 deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects people from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation such as skin cancer and cataracts," said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Michigan. "It is a serious offense to sell R-22 or other ozone-depleting refrigerants to people who haven't been trained to properly handle these substances. In this case, the defendant not only made this illegal sale, but went further and created a false document to cover his tracks. This case demonstrates that anyone who thinks breaking the law is worth the risk should think again."

The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Michigan by Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Blackwell and Special Assistant United States Attorney James Cha. The case was investigated by agents of the Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division.

 

 

 

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