Justice Department Provides Environmental Crimes Training for Officials from Southeast Asian Nations
American Pallet Recycling, L.L.C. (APR) and its former president and owner, Raymond Viola, have pleaded guilty and been sentenced in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York to criminal violations related to the falsification of certificate stamps in violation of the Plant Protection Act, the Justice Department and the Department of Agriculture announced. As part of the plea agreement, the company will pay a fine of $100,000. Viola will pay $1,000 and serve three years of probation and has relinquished the business to his son.
APR plead guilty to one felony count of falsifying stamps that certified wood pallets were heat treated to prevent pest infestation, and were suitable for use in international transportation. Viola pleaded guilty to a similar misdemeanor count. Viola had the false stamps affixed to wood pallets which were used to carry products from the United States to foreign countries. The criminal conduct took place from March 2007 through January 2011.
The Department of Agriculture requires the heat treatment of wood pallets used in international transactions. The requirement is to prevent parasites and plant diseases from potentially entering the United States in wood packaging materials. The Department of Agriculture began requiring heat treatment of wood packaging material in September 2005. Wood pallets that carry products transported within the United States are not required to be heat treated.
APR sold wood pallets to multiple other companies who used the wood pallets to transport products internationally. The purchasing companies ordered and thought they were purchasing heat treated pallets. Instead, Viola created copies of stamp certifications utilized by legitimate wood pallet treating companies, which he and his employees applied to pallets APR sold. The charges against APR and Viola involved the fraudulent stamp certification of hundreds of untreated wood pallets that were sold to other companies for use in product export.
This is the highest monetary penalty assessed for falsified use of a fraudulent mark related to wood packaging materials under the Plant Protection Act.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was prosecuted by Senior Counsel Rocky Piaggione of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.