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Item: Connecticut Man Draws 46-Month Prison Term for Sneaking Undeclared Ammonia on Commercial Flight

Date: April 29, 2004
Type: Investigation
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 Motorcycle

Date: March 8, 2004
Type: Investigation
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
Type: Investigation
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. Austin’s 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 occasions—September 26, 2001, January 29, 2002, and March 28, 2002—Austin 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 MATERIALS

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 Marshal’s 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. Attorney’s 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, 2004.

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

Date: January 21, 2004
Type: Investigation
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 Motorcycle

Date: December 8, 2003
Type: Investigation
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 shipper’s security endorsement stating the cargo did not contain hazmat. The motorcycle never was shipped because the box could not fit through the plane’s cargo door.

Owner of Indirect Air Carrier (Freight Forwarder) Guilty of Making False Statements Regarding Hazmat

Date: December 5, 2003
Type: Investigation
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. Lang’s sentencing is pending.


Medical Supplier Fined $3,000 for Shipping Unlabeled Hazmat

Date: October 28, 2003
Type: Investigation
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 Materials

Date: August 14, 2003
Type: Investigation
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 Marshal’s Office.

Owner of Detector Dogs Against Drugs & Explosives Pleads Guilty to Illegally Shipping Explosives via Air

Date: August 5, 2003
Type: Investigation
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. Ebersole’s 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 Case

Date: February 19, 2003
Type: Investigation
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 Case

Date: December 17, 2002
Type: Investigation
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 Chemlab’s 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 Labeled Hazmat

Date: November 26, 2002
Type: Investigation
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 Decoys

Date: November 25, 2002
Type: Investigation
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.

Page: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cae/PRESS/2002/12-02-02quicktrans.pdf

2nd Defendant Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Illegally Transport Hazmat

Date: October 4, 2002
Type: Investigation
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 chemicals—hydrogen peroxide aqueous solution and sodium hydroxide—can 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. Michelson’s 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 EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division.


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