Press Releases

Manhattan Man Sentenced In Federal Court For Selling And Distributing Illegal Pesticides

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that CHENG YAN HUANG, the owner of a store in the Chinatown section of Manhattan, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to time served for distributing and selling at least 2,010 packages of unregistered and unauthorized pesticides. He was also ordered to pay $1,200 toward the cost of disposal of the unregistered and unauthorized pesticides he sold and that were seized from his store. Huang pled guilty on May 14, 2012 to one count of distributing and selling the pesticides before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein, who also imposed today's sentence. On August 8, 2012, Huang’s co-defendant, delivery driver Jai Ping Chen, was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck to 200 hours of community service and a $3,000 fine for distributing and selling at least 4,510 packages of unregistered and unauthorized pesticides.

According to the Complaints and Informations filed in Manhattan federal court:

HUANG and Chen were arrested and charged in September 2011 as part of a multi-agency illegal pesticides crackdown that resulted in 12 arrests, and the seizure of thousands of packages of unregistered and misbranded pesticides that were sold out of multiple locations in Manhattan. The pesticides were particularly dangerous because their packaging and appearance could lead them to be mistaken for cookies or cough medicine. They were not registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and were missing required label warnings, so consumers had no way of knowing how dangerous the products were, or how best to protect themselves from harmful exposure.

In December 2010, an individual became gravely ill after ingesting a pesticide she mistook for medicine. Later investigation revealed that the pesticide, a small vial of blue-green liquid labeled primarily in Chinese with the words “The Cat Be Unemployed,” was being sold illegally in the Chinatown section of Manhattan. The pesticide was not registered by the EPA nor was it properly labeled, as required by both state and federal law. The investigation further revealed that the product contained almost 61 times the EPA authorized amount of brodifacoum – a rodenticide that is not approved for direct consumer use, and may only be used by licensed professionals. In response to the poisoning, various law enforcement agencies began a joint undercover investigation of the illegal sale of toxic pesticides in and around New York City. The multi-agency criminal investigation revealed at least one dozen unregistered and misbranded pesticide products – some with extremely high levels of toxicity – being sold by more than a dozen vendors in and around Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Between July and August 2011, HUANG and Chen distributed and sold more than 4,500 individual packages of unregistered and misbranded pesticide products to undercover agents. Many of the pesticide packages they sold misrepresented the amount of the chemical the pesticide contained, none contained the required ingredient statement, and none had been approved by the EPA for commercial sale. The products provided to undercover agents by HUANG and Chen contained high levels of Bromadiolone (similar in content and use restrictions to Brodifacoum), and nearly five times the EPA authorized percentage of Fipronil, another active ingredient in insecticides. The products were sold under various names, including “Fuzhou Control Termite Company – Cockroachkiller Bait. HUANG sold the pesticides at his store in Chinatown, and Chen made multiple deliveries of pesticides to at least two locations in Manhattan, including HUANG’s store. During one meeting, HUANG told undercover agents he could provide as many packages of pesticides as they wanted. During a search of HUANG’s store on September 14, 2011, agents found over 800 packages of unregistered pesticides. That same day, agents also found thousands of packages of pesticides in Chen’s home.

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In addition to payment for the clean-up costs, Judge Gorenstein also ordered HUANG, 56, of New York, New York, to pay a $25 special assessment fee.

Ten defendants charged at the state level – all owners or workers at small stores or stalls in and around the East Broadway Mall – have also pled guilty. They were all sentenced to conditional discharges and ordered to pay restitution or fines ranging from $1,500 to $5,000.

Mr. Bharara praised the work of the District Attorney's Office for New York County, the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Janis M. Echenberg is in charge of the prosecution.

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