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Press Release

Perris Man Charged with Smuggling Unregistered Pesticides

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie K. Pierson (619) 546-7976

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – September 26, 2019

SAN DIEGO – Luis Alberto Vargas of Perris was arraigned today on a felony complaint charging him with smuggling pesticides into the United States from Mexico. Vargas made his appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge F.A. Gossett.

The complaint alleges that Vargas smuggled three containers with 2.25 liters of Mexican pesticides into the United States on September 9, 2019.  According to the complaint, Vargas brought in pesticides containing the active ingredients chlorpyrifos and abamectin, chemicals which are considered to be restricted-use pesticides in the United States because they are lethal if ingested, harmful if absorbed through the skin or inhaled, and toxic to bees and other wildlife. 

In the United States, federal regulations limit the commercial sale and distribution of restricted-use pesticides to those who have received training and certification approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in mitigating the dangers of such chemicals. 

The complaint alleges that Vargas lacks the certification needed for purchase or commercial use of such pesticides.  Only pesticides registered with the EPA may be imported, sold, or distributed in the United States, and all pesticides intended for commercial use in the United States must bear their EPA registration number on their labels.  According to the complaint, the containers imported by Vargas were labeled only in Spanish and bore no EPA registration numbers.

“These types of chemicals, which are extremely dangerous to humans if ingested or inhaled, must be kept out of the hands of untrained individuals,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Misapplication of these chemicals could cause untold harm to our citizens and the environment.”

“We allege that the defendant knowingly smuggled unregistered pesticides into the country, violating environmental regulations established to protect human health and the environment,” said Jay Green, Special Agent-in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. “EPA and its partners worked together to apprehend the defendant and prevent this illegal product from threatening public safety.”

“The illegal importation and use of restricted pesticide products puts people's health and the environment at significant risk,” said Juan Munoz, deputy special agent in charge for HSI San Diego.  “HSI agents will continue to investigate these individuals that are involved in the illicit distribution of these dangerous products that threaten our communities.”

California Department of Toxic Substances Control Chief Investigator, Hansen Pang said, “It is notable to see State and Federal Law Enforcement work together on a no-tolerance initiative to protect the environment.


Luis Alberto Vargas                                        Age: 28                                   Perris, California


Smuggling, 18 U.S.C. § 545

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison, fine of $250,000 


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigations Division

Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations

California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Office of Investigations

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Updated September 26, 2019

Press Release Number: CAS19-0926-Vargas