News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Seattle Business Owner Sentenced To 33 Months In Prison For Directing Teenage Employee To Dump Hazardous Chemicals And For Witness Tampering 

Defendant Directed Disposal of Chemicals that Resulted in Chlorine Gas Exposure

May 25, 2012

            A Seattle business owner who directed a teen-age employee to illegally dispose of hazardous chemicals was sentenced to 33 months in prison, and three years of supervised release today, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  PATRICK DOOLEY, 60, the owner of Bargains, Inc., aka AAA Liquidating Services, Inc., was convicted in January 2012 of three counts of Clean Water Act violations and one count of witness tampering related to an August 2010 hazardous materials event.  Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman imposed the top of the sentencing guidelines range saying, “It’s your attempt to get out of this by manipulating other witnesses that I think is most serious… You brought this on yourself.”

            “This defendant endangered a 17-year-old boy, ignoring clear warning labels about proper disposal of these caustic chemicals,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “He then tried to cover it up by blaming the victim, which further damaged the young man and his reputation.  He now faces a sanction fully appropriate for this conduct.”

            According to records in the case and testimony at trial, in August 2010, DOOLEY directed a juvenile employee to dispose of surplus industrial strength commercial chemical cleaning products by dumping them down a toilet at the company’s South Seattle warehouse.  Acting under DOOLEY’s supervision, the juvenile employee proceeded to dispose of multiple five-gallon containers of liquid bleach and an acidic laundry solution.  DOOLEY failed to provide any personal protective equipment nor instruct the juvenile employee to take any precautions.  The two chemicals reacted in the toilet bowl to produce chlorine gas of a sufficient concentration to cause immediate physical symptoms.  Once exposed to the chlorine gas, the juvenile employee got out of the warehouse.  He continued experiencing breathing difficulties, nausea and other symptoms of chlorine gas exposure.  Emergency medical personnel responded and transported the employee to a nearby hospital where he was treated and released. 

 DOOLEY instructed another employee to falsely characterize his employment status and compensation arrangement to law enforcement officers in an attempt to obstruct the federal investigation.  At various times following the incident, DOOLEY claimed that the 17-year-old juvenile had simply decided to clean the toilet on his own, and had not been acting on instructions to dispose of the chemicals.

In asking for a prison sentence of more than five years, prosecutors wrote to the court that DOOLEY “…capitalized on an employment relationship whereby he was directing the
actions of a teenager, whom he paid under the table, in cash…. A responsible employer would have checked on his underage employee and immediately provided first responders with any and all information about the incident. Mr. Dooley was not a responsible employer. He took
another tact – ignoring his injured employee, disposing of evidence, and lying to responders about what caused the incident. By doing so, he made a dangerous situation worse.”

“To save a buck, defendant Dooley callously exposed a young employee to toxic chemicals that sent him to the hospital,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division in Seattle.  “A career criminal, previously convicted of arson, grand larceny, and witness tampering, didn't get away with this environmental crime, thanks to these determined federal prosecutors.”

            The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Diggs and Jim Oesterle.

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