Allentown Company Agrees To Pay Fines And Penalties Totaling $1.3 Million For Violating Procedures Related To Chemical Shipments
PHILADELPHIA – A chemical company headquartered in Allentown, PA, has agreed to plead guilty to a six count information charging it with shipping monomethylamine (MMA) to customers in Mexico for whom required identification had not been obtained and failing to report the disappearance of shipments of MMA. Taminco US, Inc. (“Taminco”), has also reached a settlement with the United States of civil claims concerning the same conduct and has agreed to pay a civil fine of $475,000. Taminco has agreed to a criminal penalty of $860,374, which comprises a criminal fine of $650,000 and forfeiture of $210,374. The agreements must be accepted and approved by United States District Court Judge Edward G. Smith. The case was announced today by First Assistant United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen.
Taminco manufactured, distributed, sold and exported MMA. MMA is classified as a “List I” chemical and regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because it is a necessary chemical for one method of manufacturing methamphetamine, a controlled substance. Due to its List I chemical classification, a manufacturer is required to confirm the identity and verify the legitimacy of any customer to whom it ships the product. The manufacturer is also required to immediately report to the DEA any unusual or excessive loss or disappearance of the product. Taminco manufactured MMA at its plant in Pace, Florida, and had the MMA packaged in 55 gallon drums before shipping it to the border at Laredo, Texas.
According to court documents filed today, between February and June of 2010, Taminco shipped six loads of MMA to two different customers in Mexico for whom Taminco had not obtained required identification. Each load was approximately 16,800 kilograms of MMA. According to court documents, some shipments of MMA disappeared and Taminco failed to promptly report the disappearances to the DEA as required by statute.
DEA discovered evidence of some barrels from missing shipments in August 2011, and discovered some of the missing barrels of MMA in December 2011 and April 2012. In August 2011, DEA agents located wrappers from the June 2010 shipment of MMA drums in an abandoned residence in San Luis, Arizona. In December of 2011, Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted five Taminco drums of MMA when an individual (not associated with Taminco) attempted to transport them by truck into Mexico at Nogales, Arizona. In April of 2012, DEA agents found and seized six additional Taminco drums of MMA at a self-storage unit in Nogales, Arizona. The drums that DEA seized were from March 2010 shipments to the unverified Mexican customer.
Taminco’s civil settlement with the United States resolves civil claims arising from 19 shipments of MMA in early and mid-2010 that were authorized by Taminco without proper verification of the existence and validity of the foreign business entities ordering the List I chemicals. According to the civil claims, Taminco also could not verify that certain of the MMA shipments reached their intended recipient in Mexico, and Taminco failed to report to DEA that those shipments were missing or that delivery could not be verified.
As part of the civil settlement, Taminco has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DEA under which Taminco has agreed to comply with certain heightened compliance requirements regarding the manufacture, sale and shipment of listed chemicals. DEA has agreed to forego administrative action against Taminco’s DEA registrations, subject to Taminco’s compliance with the terms of the MOA.
“The defendant in this case violated the law when it chose to ship DEA regulated precursor chemicals, which it knew could be used to manufacture methamphetamine, without following procedures designed to ensure that these chemicals do not end up in the hands of drug dealers,” said Lappen. “As part of our continuing responsibility to help protect the public from dangerous drugs, this office will continue to use both criminal and civil penalties to ensure that companies properly handle List I chemicals.”
“A primary function of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control is to prevent, detect, and investigate the diversion of listed chemicals such as MMA from chemical supply companies. This chemical is often used by drug-trafficking organizations to manufacture methamphetamine, which is a highly addictive drug,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Tuggle, DEA Philadelphia. “DEA Diversion Investigators play a pivotal role in the agency’s mission of combating the diversion of listed chemicals for illegal purposes. The DEA will remain aggressive in pursuing criminal violations of this nature.”
“DEA in Arizona and Philadelphia worked closely with other members of law enforcement in an effort to determine what became of these chemicals which have the potential to become harmful drugs,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Doug Coleman, DEA Arizona. “DEA is responsible for protecting our citizens from the dangers of drugs and will pursue all responsible parties who play a role in the manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs and their precursors.”
The case was investigated by the Yuma, AZ Resident Office and Scranton Resident Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration with assistance from Customs and Border Protection. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Albert S. Glenn and Charlene Keller Fullmer.