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Environmental Crimes Bulletin March 2024 Week 5

In this issue:

United States v. Rodolfo Rodriguez, et al., Nos. 3:23-CR-00138, 3:23-CR-00141 (W.D.N.C), AUSA Steven Kaufman

On March 26, 2024, a court sentenced Bryan Canaan to five months’ incarceration, followed by three years’ supervised release, to include five months’ home detention. Canaan also will pay $20,846 in restitution to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles and an additional $258,240 fine. Co-defendant Rodolfo Rodriguez was previously sentenced to ten months’ incarceration, followed by three years of supervised release. Rodriquez will also pay a $302,320 fine and $24,404 restitution to the state of North Carolina. Both defendants pleaded guilty to making false statements under the Clean Air Act (CAA) (42 U.S.C. § 7413(c)(2)(A)) and conspiracy (18 U.S.C. § 371).

Rodriguez owns and operates The Auto Spa and Tiger Auto Inspections and More Inc.; Canaan worked at both locations. Between July 2019 and November 2022, Rodriguez and Canaan violated the CAA by manually changing various categories of data stored in vehicles’ On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) testing equipment. First, Rodriguez and Canaan manually input vehicle identification numbers (VIN) into OBD equipment. In doing so, they entered the vehicle's county of registration as a county not requiring vehicle emissions testing, known as an illegal "county swap." Additionally, they changed the designation of truck types from light duty to heavy duty, thus allowing the trucks to evade the vehicle emissions testing requirement, called an illegal "duty swap." Finally, they changed the type of fuel used from gas or diesel to electric, referred to as an illegal "fuel swap."

A review of testing and registration data showed Rodriguez and Canaan performed approximately 3,800 inspections during this period, causing North Carolina to lose close to $30,000 in fee revenue.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation.

United States v. Paulo Perez-Mendoza, No. 2:24-CR-00073 (E.D. Calif.), AUSA Karen Escobar

On March 28, 2024, a grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Paulo Perez-Mendoza with conspiring to receive and sell smuggled pesticides into the United States and the unlawful distribution and sale of unregistered pesticides (18 U.S.C. § 371; 7 U.S.C. §§ 136j(a)(1)(A), 136l(b)).

Between January 2019, and March 2024, Perez recruited another individual to smuggle illegal pesticides into the United States from Mexico and deliver them to Perez at his residential business, Perez Generation Honeybee Ranch, in Stockton, California. Between September 2020, and July 2022, Perez purchased 1,000 to 1,500 liters at a time of the illegal Mexican pesticides, paying a total of $476,680. Perez resold the pesticides to beekeepers in other states, including Oregon, Washington, Georgia, and Florida.

Only pesticides registered with the EPA may be imported or sold in the United States. They must bear their EPA registration number on their labels, preceded by the phrase “EPA Registration No.” or “EPA Reg. No.” In addition, all required information on a label must appear in the English language. Taktic and Bovitraz, the pesticides at issue, primarily contain the active ingredient amitraz at an emulsifiable concentration of 12.5%, which, in this form, is an unregistered pesticide in the United States.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation, with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations.

United States v. John Murphy, No. 1:24-CR-10074 (D. Mass.), ECS Senior Trial Attorney Matt Morris, AUSAs Danial Bennett and Kaitlin Brown, and ECS Paralegal Jonah Fruchtman

On March 29, 2024, authorities arrested John Murphy for violating the Animal Welfare Act for possessing dogs he used in a dog fighting venture (7 U.S.C. § 2156(b)).

On June 7, 2023, authorities executed a search warrant at Murphy’s residence and another residence, seizing a total of 13 pit bull–type dogs. Several of the dogs exhibited scarring. Authorities also recovered equipment used in fights, including syringes, anabolic steroids, a skin stapler, forceps, equipment and literature for training dogs, and break sticks used to separate fighting dogs.

A civil forfeiture complaint states that Murphy frequently communicated with other dog fighters via Facebook and posted dog fighting-related photos to his Facebook account. Additionally, between 2019 and 2021, Murphy posted videos depicting pit bull-type dogs physically tethered to treadmills commonly used to physically condition dogs for fighting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation with assistance from the following agencies: Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; U.S. Marshal Service; Maine State Police; New Hampshire State Police; Massachusetts Office of the State Auditor; Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and Police Departments in Hanson, Boston and Acton, Massachusetts.

Updated April 17, 2024