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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Five Pennsylvania Men Charged With Conspiring To Defraud The United States And Violate The Clean Air Act

SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Gavin Rexer, age 29, Dennis Paulhamus, age 39, Timothy Sweitzer, age 41, all of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, Joseph Powell, age 31, of Hickory, Pennsylvania, and John Joseph, age 38, of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, were charged in a criminal information on May 25, 2018, with conspiring to impede the lawful functions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT), and to violate the Clean Air Act.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Rexer, Powell and Joseph were employees of Rockwater Northeast LLC, a company that serviced the fracking industry.  In the course of their employment, Rexer, Powell, and Joseph conspired to modify the emissions systems on approximately 30 Rockwater heavy-duty diesel trucks by using “defeat devices.”  The defeat devices were obtained from Paulhamus and Sweitzer and their purchases were concealed in Rockwater’s books and records by mislabeling them as exhaust systems.  The conspirators also are accused of taking the modified commercial motor vehicles to state approved inspection stations, including Sweitzer’s Garage, to pass federally regulated commercial motor vehicle inspections falsely.

“We take seriously our job of protecting the environment in Pennsylvania, and we won’t hesitate to prosecute individuals committing environmental crimes,” said United States Attorney Freed.

“For years, the defendants engaged in a broad-based criminal conspiracy to manipulate vehicle emission components as a cost savings measure,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Lynn of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.  “EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to holding responsible those who violate environmental laws for competitive advantage.”      

“This investigation demonstrates our commitment to ensuring the safe and efficient travel of commercial motor vehicles,” said Douglas Shoemaker, regional Special Agent-in-Charge of the DOT Office of Inspector General. “Working with our Federal, State, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial colleagues, we will continue to protect the public’s safety from those that would seek to circumvent DOT-related laws and regulations.”

The matter was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division and the DOT’s Office of the Inspector General, with the assistance of the Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Phillip J. Caraballo and Sean Camoni, and by Special Assistant United States Attorney Patricia C. Miller.

Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is five years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.


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Updated May 30, 2018