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DOT Office of Inspector General - Recent Criminal
Item: Connecticut Man Draws 46-Month Prison Term
for Sneaking Undeclared Ammonia on Commercial Flight
Date: April 29, 2004
Summary: Bernard Williams of Norwalk, CT, drew a 46-month prison term
and a $7,500 fine from a U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn, NY, for
recklessly delivering two undeclared cartons of ammonia for
transport on a commercial flight. Williams was convicted in July 2003
for declaring that two cardboard boxes which he checked on a February
15, 2002 flight from Fort Myers, FL to New York City, contained kitty
litter when they contained 13 bottles of ammonia. During the flight, one
of the bottles broke, causing 28 passengers, including a seven-week-old
infant, to become ill. The infant had to be hospitalized. Williams was
also ordered to pay $600 in restitution and will serve 36 month on probation
following his jail term.
Item: Florida Man Sentenced for Illegally Shipping
Date: March 8, 2004
Summary: Peter Lang, owner of U.S. European Trading Corporation, an indirect
air carrier in Fort Myers, FL, was given two years on probation by a U.S.
District Court judge in Fort Myers, for illegally shipping a used motorcycle
on a passenger plane in violation of hazardous material regulations. A
used motorcycle is hazardous because it contains gasoline. The investigation
was conducted by OIG and the Transportation Safety Administration.
Item: Firm President Made False Statements About
Retesting of 2,000 High-Pressure Cylinders
Date: May 4, 2004
Summary: Greg Austin, president of Austin & Pruitt Fire & Safety
Equipment, Wilmington, DE, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wilmington,
to making false statements regarding the testing of about 2,000 high-pressure
compressed-gas cylinders. Austins business is authorized by the
Department to conduct visual and hydrostatic retests of high-pressure
cylinders, such as fire extinguishers and firefighter air-packs. After
an unannounced inspection in September 2000, the firm was asked to recall
and retest 81 cylinders. On three occasionsSeptember 26, 2001, January
29, 2002, and March 28, 2002Austin informed Department officials
that about 64 of the 81 cylinders had been recalled and retested. Not
believing him, investigators found about 30 cylinders at fire departments
that had not been retested. Firefighters count on certifications that
their equipment is properly functioning and safe. By lying, Austin put
their lives at risk. Austin is scheduled for sentencing on August 5. The
case was investigated by OIG and RSPA.
FORMER JEFFERSON COUNTY FIREWORKS MANUFACTURING COMPANY
NEXT F/X, INCORPORATED PLEADS GUILTY TO ILLEGAL TRANSPORTATION OF HAZARDOUS
May 14, 2004
St. Louis, Missouri: A former Jefferson County fireworks manufacturing
company, now located in Columbus, Montana pled guilty this afternoon to
charges of illegal transportation of hazardous materials, United States
Attorney Ray Gruender announced today.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Department of Transportation-Office
of Inspector General and the Missouri State Fire Marshals Office,
Fire Investigation Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Patrick Flachs
and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Reap are handling the case for
the U.S. Attorneys Office.
NEXT FX, INCORPORATED, Columbus, Montana pled guilty
to one felony count of transporting hazardous materials. Attorney Barry
Short appeared as a representative for Next FX, Incorporated before United
States District Judge Donald J. Stohr.
Next FX, Inc. faces a fine of $10,000. Sentencing has
been set for Friday, July 30, 2004 at 11:00 a.m.
According to the facts filed with the court, on April
23, 2001, Next F/X, Incorporated shipped improperly marked hazardous materials
called a "concussion," from Dittmer, Missouri to Manchester,
Tennessee via Federal Express Ground Delivery.
Co-defendant RUSSELL R. NICKEL, 39, Columbus, Montana,
awaits trial, which is set for Monday May 17, 2004. Co-defendants RONALD
ROBERT WALKER, 41, and his wife, KIM JOAN WALKER, 39, both now residing
in Columbus, Montana pled guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to
illegally transport hazardous wastes and illegal storage of explosives
earlier this week and await sentencing, which is scheduled for July 30,
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations,
and defendant Nickel is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty
Former Company Vice President
Fined for Illegally Shipping Hazmat
Summary: Daryl Schumacher, former vice president of International Trading
and Marketing of Lancaster, PA, was fined $2,700 by a U.S. District Court
judge in Philadelphia, PA, for deliberately shipping thousands of undeclared
gas-charged lighters and matches by air between January 1999 and October
2000, in violation of the Federal hazardous material law. Schumacher pleaded
guilty in September 2002. He received a reduced sentence in exchange for
his cooperation with other OIG hazardous materials investigations.
Former Pilot Convicted and Fined $17,500 for Attempting to Ship Concealed
Date: December 8, 2003
Summary: Alexander I. Eskin of Honolulu, HI, pleaded guilty in U.S. District
Court in Albany, NY, to filing a false report regarding a hazardous material
shipment, for which he was fined a $5,000 criminal penalty and $12,500
civil penalty. Eskin was a pilot for Northwest Airlines, when in June
2001 he tried to air ship a used motorcycle concealed in a box from Albany
to Michigan. In two phone conversations with the shipper the previous
day, he was told he would have to declare the motorcycle as hazardous
material (hazmat) because it contained gasoline and oil. Nonetheless,
Eskin claimed on an airbill that the box did not contain dangerous goods
regulated in air transport and also signed a shippers security endorsement
stating the cargo did not contain hazmat. The motorcycle never was shipped
because the box could not fit through the planes cargo door.
Owner of Indirect Air Carrier (Freight Forwarder)
Guilty of Making False Statements Regarding Hazmat
December 5, 2003
Summary: Peter Lang, owner of U.S. European Trading Corporation, an indirect
air carrier based in Fort Myers, FL, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court
in Fort Myers to making false statements regarding an attempt to ship
hazardous material on a passenger plane. The hazardous material was a
used motorcycle, which Lang did not declare as hazmat and was not properly
packaged and labeled. A used motorcycle is considered hazardous because
it contained gasoline and oil. This case was investigated by the OIG and
TSA. Langs sentencing is pending.
Medical Supplier Fined $3,000 for Shipping Unlabeled Hazmat
Date: October 28, 2003
Summary: MGC Trading Corporation of Miami, FL, was fined $3,000 by U.S.
District Court judge in Miami for willfully delivering unlabeled flammable,
corrosive, and poisonous chemicals. The firm pleaded guilty to the charge
in June 2003. In June 2002, MGC, through a freight forwarder, offered
nine separate packages to Lan Chile, a foreign air carrier, for air transportation
to Peru. The packages were described in the air bill as general laboratory
supplies. During handling at Lan Chile, one of the packages broke open,
exposing its hazardous contents. Many of the bottles inside the box had
hazmat labels affixed. MGC sells laboratory and medical supplies, including
chemicals used in medical laboratory work, to hospitals and medical clinics
throughout Latin America.
Two Missouri Fireworks Companies and Three Corporate
Officers Indicted on Charges of Obstruction and Illegal Shipping of Explosive
Date: August 14, 2003
Summary: Two Missouri pyrotechnic manufacturing companies and three officers
were indicted on obstruction of agency proceedings related to three explosions
at one plant and illegal transportation and storage of hazardous wastes.
The indictment by a Federal grand jury in St. Louis, MO, names Pyro Products,
Inc., and Next F/X, Inc., both in Dittmer, MO, along with Ronald R. Walker,
his wife, Kim J. Walker, and Russell R. Nickel, all residing in Columbus,
MT. The indictment remained under seal until August 12, after Nickel was
arrested in Montana by special agents from OIG and the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
The Walkers and Nickel are charged with alleged
attempts to hide various illegal acts surrounding three explosions at
Pyro Products, one in November 1999 and two in 2001, in which two employees
died and five were injured. Misconduct is also alleged related to the
illegal manufacture and shipping of explosives, illegal transportation
of hazardous wastes, and creation of false documents to mislead Federal
inspectors. The case is a joint investigation of OIG, ATF, and the Missouri
State Fire Marshals Office.
Owner of Detector Dogs Against Drugs & Explosives
Pleads Guilty to Illegally Shipping Explosives via Air
Date: August 5, 2003
Summary: Russell L. Ebersole, the owner of Detector Dogs Against Drugs
and Explosives of Stephenson, VA, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court
in Harrisonburg, VA, to charges of instructing an employee to ship undeclared
explosives transported by air and to witness tampering. Ebersoles
guilty plea resulted from a joint OIG and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms,
and Explosives (ATF) investigation revealing that he told an employee
to ship by air a 1.4-pound box of explosives marked as kitchen supplies.
The undeclared shipment violated DOT regulations and posed a serious risk
to public safety. Ebersole also shipped a second box of undeclared explosives
from Hagerstown, MD, to Seattle, WA, via UPS ground services. To corroborate
lies he told ATF special agents, Ebersole told the individual who received
the ground shipment to destroy the explosives and lie to Federal investigators.
No sentencing date has been set.
In June in an unrelated case, a U.S. District Court jury
in Alexandria, VA, convicted Ebersole of defrauding the Government by
contracting to provide explosives detection services at Federal agencies
using dogs when the dogs were actually unable to distinguish explosives.
Item: Former Trucking Employee Sentenced in HazMat
Date: February 19, 2003
Summary: Randa Michelson, a former employee of Mid-America Express, Inc.,
Chatsworth, GA, was sentenced in U. S. District Court in Minneapolis,
MN, after earlier pleading guilty to participating in a conspiracy to
transport undeclared hazardous materials by truck. The chemicals, which
should have been labeled as hazardous, included hydrogen peroxide and
sodium hydroxide, which can cause skin burns and irritation to the respiratory
tract. Michelson was sentenced to 3 years probation and 150 hours
of community service. She was charged in Biloxi, MS, in 2001 with co-defendant
Jack Weaver. She then moved to Minnesota and was allowed to enter her
guilty plea there. Weaver was fined $1,000 in 2002. OIG conducted the
investigation jointly with the FBI and EPA.
Corporate Officer Fined $330,000 in Date Rape Drug
Date: December 17, 2002
Summary: Michael P. Starks, chief executive officer of Chemlab in Little
Rock, AR, was fined over $330,000 and sentenced to 18 months in jail by
a U.S. District Court judge in Little Rock for conspiring to illegally
sell and distribute kits for making the date rape drug, gamma
hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Starks and unnamed co-conspirators assembled the
kits and arranged to deliver them by air in interstate commerce without
proper labeling that the packages contained dangerous goods. Stark also
used Chemlabs website to sell the kits in the United States and
several foreign countries. OIG conducted this investigation jointly with
the Food and Drug Administration with assistance from FAA.
Company Owner Fined $3,000 for Shipping Improperly
November 26, 2002
Summary: Raviv Aizen, owner of Maryland Core, Inc., a company in Baltimore,
MD, that recycles late-model automobile parts, was fined $3,000 by a U.S.
District Court judge in Baltimore for shipping automobile airbag modules
via ground freight without properly labeling them as hazardous material.
The modules contain cylinders of compressed gas capable of discharging
with explosive force. Aizen did not label the contents to avoid paying
the higher shipping costs of such materials.
Trucking Company Fined $100,000 for Improper Shipment of Hazardous Military
Date: November 25, 2002
Summary: Quick Transportation, Inc., a trucking company operating out
of Michigan City, IN and Stockton, CA, was fined $100,000 and put on 36
months probation by a U.S. District Court judge in Sacramento for
unlawfully transporting compressed nitrogen military decoy flares. The
flares can become dangerous projectiles under extreme heat or pressure
and must be shipped under constant surveillance. Although Quick received
a bill of lading identifying the shipment as hazardous and specifying
the need for surveillance, the company created new paperwork that deliberately
omitted the hazard. Quick then trucked the shipment to an intermediary
firm, which delivered the container to Union Pacific Railroad for transport
to California. The flares were discovered when the train derailed near
Lodi, CA in January 1998. The decoys did not explode. OIG investigated
the case jointly with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, FBI, FRA,
FMCSA, and RSPA.
2nd Defendant Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Illegally
Date: October 4, 2002
Summary: Randa Michelson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis,
MN, to taking part in a conspiracy to illegally transport hazardous chemicals
by truck. Falsely identified as nonhazardous, the chemicalshydrogen
peroxide aqueous solution and sodium hydroxidecan cause skin burns
and irritation to the respiratory tract. Michelson was originally charged
with co-conspirator and associate Jack Weaver, owner of Weaver Enterprises,
a trucking brokerage firm in Chatsworth, GA, to conspiracy to transport
undeclared hazardous materials and chemicals. Following her indictment
in 2001, Michelson moved to Minnesota, where she pleaded guilty. Michelsons
sentencing date has not been set. Weaver was sentenced in U.S. District
Court in Biloxi, MS, in May 2002 to 2 years' probation and fined $1,000
for conspiracy to transport the dangerous materials without proper identification.
OIG conducted the investigation jointly with the FBI and EPAs Criminal
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Phone (800) 949-4834 or fax your Dangerous Goods Declaration to (800) 527-5121
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