News and Press Releases

husband and wife receive federal sentences for misuse of pesticides

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2012

NEW BERN  – United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that today in federal court United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan sentenced a husband and wife for their involvement in the misuse of pesticides. TIMOTHY TERRELL SMITHER, 54, former manager of a North Carolina pesticide company, was sentenced to 12 months and one day imprisonment followed by three years supervised release. His wife, DENISE SMITHER, 57, former office assistant at the pesticide company, received two years probation with five months of home confinement.  On March 14, 2012, TIMOTHY SMITHER pled guilty to a one count Bill of Information which charged conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  That same day, DENISE SMITHER pled guilty to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). 

According to the court documents and information from court proceedings, beginning in 1995, Steve Miller (now deceased), the owner and operator of the Miller Trophy Room, formerly known as Love Bug Pest Control, Inc, began to focus the business on treating animal trophy mounts.  In 2001, the company began advertising on the Internet and claimed to engage in business in 48 different states, including Mount Pleasant, North Carolina.  

In 2000, Miller decided to use Termidor SC to treat indoor mounts and began purchasing large quantities of the product.  Termidor SC is a pesticide that is not authorized for indoor use except for applications into wall voids.  As required by law, pesticides must be labeled.   FIFRA makes it unlawful to detach, alter, deface, or destroy any labeling on pesticide containers.  The Act also makes it unlawful to use any registered pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.

In 2002 and again in 2005, Miller and another co-conspirator purchased thousands of labels with the company’s name and address printed on them.  From the initial purchase through 2009, Smither and co-conspirators relabeled the containers of Termidor SC with the company labels.  From 2004 to 2009, the conspirators shipped the relabeled Termidor SC to independent contract employees in other states for application and treatment of indoor trophy mounts. 

Because of the conspiracy, customers who were unaware that the product sent to them contained Termidor SC, treated large trophy mounts indoors by mixing the pesticide with water, and saturating the mounts as they sat on tarps.  The mounts would then be left to air dry.  

During the application process, some customers were directly exposed to Termidor.  Several customers reported holding the mounts while they were being sprayed and that the chemical made contact with their arms and hands.  Another customer reported that his wife ran a day care center out of their home and that the children played on and petted the mounts from time to time after the treatments.  Customers were told that the chemical being applied was completely safe, would not hurt them, and was a Miller Trophy Room “secret” chemical.

To conceal the use of Termidor SC, the conspirators created false Material Safety Data Sheets that stated in Section II – Hazardous Ingredients/Identity Information, “Ingredients are considered a ‘TRADE SECRET’”. 

“This company misused a pesticide for profit, and in so doing, told customers that it was completely safe to treat trophy mounts,” said Mr. Walker.  “This deceptive advertising increased their business, with the company profiting in excess of $2.5 million.” 

"Pesticide labels exist for a reason; so pesticides are used properly and safely. Appropriate use of pesticides protects human health and the environment,” said Maureen O'Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's Criminal Enforcement Program in North Carolina. “Today's sentence sends a strong message that individuals who commit crimes by deliberately misusing pesticides and putting the public at risk will be prosecuted."

“These misleading practices exposed families and even children to potentially harmful chemicals without their knowledge,” said Greg McLeod, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.  “Our agents will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to uncover environmental crimes like these that put people’s health and safety at risk.”

A restitution hearing is set for November 7, 2012.

Investigation of the case is being conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency – Criminal Investigations Division, the EPA Region 4 - Civil, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan.

 

 

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