Three New Jersey Men Plead Guilty to the Illegal Production and Distribution Of Pesticides
Three individuals who operated Flexabar Corporation, a paint and coating manufacturer in Lakewood, New Jersey, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to the illegal production and distribution of pesticides. Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark and EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine made the announcement.
Andrew Guglielmo, Flexabar’s Chief Executive and Financial Officer; Richard Guglielmo Jr., Flexabar’s President; and Hamdi Latif, the company’s Technical Director, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal district court in Trenton, New Jersey, to felony charges of having conspired to violate federal pesticide laws and to evade EPA’s ban on the use of the marine toxin tributyltin (TBT).
“Tributylin, or TBT, is dangerous to marine life, which is why Congress limited its use in 1988. Despite this danger, and repeated notices by EPA, the defendants chose to illegally produce and distribute TBT,” said Assistant Attorney General Clark. “Yesterday’s guilty pleas shows that the Department of Justice will not tolerate such unlawful conduct.”
“The defendants in this case produced and marketed a paint that contained a biocide that can cause significant harm to marine life. When questioned about the intended use of the paint, the defendants repeatedly misled EPA investigators,” said EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine. “Yesterday’s guilty pleas demonstrate that companies and their top executives who conspire to skirt federal pesticide control laws and place our natural resources at risk will be prosecuted.”
During the 1970s, TBT was used on boats, docks, crab pots, and other fishing gear in antifouling paint that prevent the growth of barnacles, seaweed, and mollusks. By the 1980s, scientific studies showed TBT to be extremely toxic to marine life, causing shell deformation, reproductive aberrations, endocrine disruption, and bio-accumulation in predator species including marine mammals. In the early 1990s, EPA began to limit the use of TBT to reduce its impact on marine life. In 1991, EPA directed Flexabar to clarify the language on its registered TBT labels to assure that the product was not used as an antifouling treatment on surfaces in contact with water.
In spite of repeated notices from EPA, the defendants evaded restrictions on their company’s TBT pesticides and continued to produce and sell TBT antifouling paints to the fishing industry. They manufactured and sold TBT for marine uses after such applications were restricted by an act of Congress in 1988, by EPA’s labeling requirements in 1991, by an international treaty in 2001, by EPA’s TBT product cancellation in 2005, and by EPA’s subsequent notices. Even after February 2013, when EPA banned the sale of Flexabar’s TBT pesticides for any application, the defendants continued to surreptitiously purchase TBT, to manufacture more TBT antifouling paint, and to illegally sell it for use as a marine pesticide.
Each defendant is subject to a maximum of up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the financial gain they derived from the offense.
Sentencing for Richard Guglielmo Jr. is scheduled for February 25, 2018; sentencing for Andrew Guglielmo is scheduled for February 26, 2018; and sentencing for Hamdi Latif is scheduled for February 27, 2018.
This case was investigated by Resident Agent in Charge Nicole Bein of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jeremy Korzenik and Adam Cullman of the Environmental Crimes Section of the United States Department of Justice.