Gibson City Man Sentenced To Eight Years In Federal Prison For Mail Fraud, Tax Evasion
Peoria, Ill. – A Gibson City, Ill., man, Carl Kieser, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for mail fraud, tax evasion, and illegal application of a pesticide inconsistent with its labeling. Yesterday, Chief U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid ordered that Kieser, 63, serve 97 months (8 years, 1 month) in federal prison, and three years of supervised release following his release from prison. Kieser was ordered to report on May 5, 2015, to the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his sentence. Kieser was also ordered to pay restitution in the total amount of $75,862; $71,411 to the IRS and $4,451 to victims he defrauded.
On Oct. 31, 2014, a jury convicted Kieser of three counts of mail fraud and illegal application of a pesticide inconsistent with its labeling. On July 8, 2014, Kieser had entered open pleas of guilty to four counts of tax evasion.
Kieser owned and operated Aquatic Control of Illinois, at his Gibson City Fishing and Camping Club, south of Gibson City on Route 47. At trial, the government presented evidence that Kieser manufactured, advertised, sold, and distributed a product he called Pond Clear Plus. Kieser produced Pond Clear Plus by mixing Diuron 80DF with other ingredients, including a blue pond dye. Diuron 80DF is a pesticide registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the control of land-based weeds; the EPA-approved labeling for the pesticide warns that the chemical should not be applied directly to water due to its toxicity to fish and other aquatic wildlife.
Kieser’s advertisements for Pond Clear Plus in newspapers and magazines falsely and fraudulently represented that Pond Clear Plus could control lake weeds and algae “Mother Nature’s Way,” with “No Chemicals,” using a “biological method with live bacteria that dissolves plant nutrients, black muck, and rotten egg odor.” Kieser also falsely and fraudulently represented to customers that Pond Clear Plus contained no chemicals. In fact, as Kieser knew full well, Pond Clear Plus contained the chemical pesticide Diuron 80DF, which was prohibited by its EPA-approved labeling from being applied directly to water.
As a result of his false advertising and representations, Kieser sold and distributed Pond Clear Plus to customers from approximately July 2007 to September 2012. Kieser obtained more than $400,000 in proceeds from customers from the sale of Pond Clear Plus, but failed to pay any federal income tax on his profits from 2008 to 2011.
Kieser provided Pond Clear Plus to his customers via Federal Express or some other means in 2.5 gallon jugs without any labels, including any labels informing customers that Pond Clear Plus contained Diuron 80DF and should not be applied directly to water. To the contrary, Kieser advised customers that Pond Clear Plus contained no chemicals and should be applied by pouring it directly into the customer’s pond or lake. Moreover, Kieser himself on occasion directly applied Pond Clear Plus to lakes or ponds for his customers. As a result, Diuron 80DF was directly applied to ponds and lakes throughout the U.S. in direct contravention of its EPA-approved labeling, and multiple customers experienced fish kills following the application of Pond Clear Plus to their ponds and lakes.
“Mail fraud is a crime that can have wide-ranging impacts, sometimes leading to serious public health threats,” said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Illinois. “EPA’s mission of protecting public health and the environment is undermined when violators misuse and illegally market potentially harmful chemicals. This sentencing sends a strong message that violators who skirt the law to line their own pockets will pay the price.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene L. Miller. The charges were investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, with the assistance of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and the Illinois Department of Agriculture.