TEN CHINATOWN SHOP OWNERS CHARGED WITH SELLING HIGHLY TOXIC ILLEGAL PESTICIDES

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara today announced the culmination of a 5-month-long joint state-federal undercover investigation into the possession and sale of illegal pesticides and related crimes committed in retail shops located in Manhattan’s Chinatown. As a result of this investigation, 10 retail sellers have been charged by the Manhattan DA’s Office with selling dangerous and illegal pesticides and with reckless endangerment; another shop owner and one supplier of the illegal pesticides have been charged with similar crimes under Federal law.Nearly all of the defendants are each charged with more than 200 counts of these crimes. On September 14, 2011, state and federal law enforcement authorities executed search warrants at a total of 14 locations and seized more than 6,000 packages of illegal pesticides. The pesticide products sold at and seized from the search locations lacked required state and federal registrations and contained active ingredients that pose serious health risks to the public.

“The sale of illegal pesticides poses a direct threat to the health and safety of our community. In the cases charged by our Office, that threat was particularly imminent in the Chinatown neighborhood.” said District Attorney Vance. “Some of these illegal products look and smell like cookie crumbs, making them dangerously tempting to children. Some of the other products are so toxic that one small vial can kill an adult male. It is my hope that our collective criminal and civil law enforcement actions will prevent future injury or death.”

Since April 2011, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) have been working with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) on a joint effort to crack down on the prevalent problem of illegal pesticides sales, specifically in Manhattan’s Chinatown. As charged in the criminal complaints, over the last several months, investigators from the District Attorney’s Office, the DEC and the EPA made multiple undercover purchases of unregistered rodenticides and roach-killing compounds at numerous retail locations. Some of these purchases involved hundreds of packages of these illegal pesticide products, and some of these purchases involved compounds not permitted for any type of use in New York State.

The investigation is ongoing. This enforcement action coincides with a citywide EPA civil sweep of other stores suspected of offering for sale illegal pesticide products.

Under both the New York State Environmental Conservation Law (“ECL”) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, any pesticide product sold or used in New York must meet strict registration, labeling and certification requirements. It is a misdemeanor to sell or offer for sale a pesticide product that has not been properly registered and approved.

The pesticide products purchased and seized as part of this investigation include:

* The Cat Be Unemployed, a rodenticide containing brodifacoum, an anticoagulant poison, in concentrations more than 40 to 60 times the maximum allowable by the EPA.
* Rodenticide containing sodium fluoroacetate, in concentrations far exceeding EPA limits. No registered pesticide products in New York contain sodium fluoroacetate; under federal law, sodium fluoroacetate is restricted for use in livestock collars and only by trained, certified applicators.
* Fuzhou Control Termite Company roach bait, containing the insecticide fipronil, and resembling a crumbled, sweet cookie.
* MieZhangQing, roach bait containing fipronil and resembling a crumbled, sweet cookie.

Pictured above: "The Cat Be Unemployed," a rodenticide containing brodifacoum, which is one of the most toxic products being sold in local Chinatown stores.

Assistant District Attorney Julieta V. Lozano is prosecuting the 10 state cases, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy, Deputy Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Richard Weber, Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau and Deputy Chief of the Investigation Division. Supervising Investigator Santiago Batista and Investigator David Lee of the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau assisted with the investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney Janis Echenberg of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is prosecuting the two federal cases.

District Attorney Vance thanked DEC Lieutenant John Fitzpatrick and DEC Investigator Kevin Gilmartin, EPA Special Agents Daniel Lau and Randy Kumar, the United States Postal Inspector Service, and the United States Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their assistance with the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Bharara said: “As alleged, these defendants were literally peddling poison to an unwitting public, putting the health and safety of their customers and their families in jeopardy. As a result of this unprecedented collaborative law enforcement effort, tremendous quantities of these highly toxic and potentially lethal chemicals have been confiscated, and the people allegedly responsible for creating this public health risk will be punished.”

Assistant Administrator for United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Cynthia Giles said: “The sale of unregistered chemical products is illegal and puts people's health, particularly young children, at risk. Last week's twelve arrests, inspections, and outreach to the local community about the dangers of unregistered pest control chemicals, will help keep our neighborhoods safe and illegal products off the streets.”

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens said: “State pesticide regulations are in place to ensure pesticides are used only when necessary and in the smallest concentrations possible to protect both the people using the products and the environment. The high concentration of illegal pesticides found in this case pose a significant health threat to the individuals using these products and any unsuspecting person who might come into contact with them. The collaborative efforts of DEC Environmental Conservation Officers, DEC pesticides staff, EPA agents and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office made removing this threat to the community possible.”

U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector Ronald Verrochio: “Postal Inspectors are committed to protecting the U.S. Mails and the public from dangerous and harmful items placed in the mailstream, whether in the US or abroad. The defendants knowingly distributed illegal pesticides to consumers, placing their lives at risk. Along with our Federal counterparts, Postal Inspectors will always pursue individuals who use the mails to conduct illegal activites, placing our employees and customers in harm's way.”

Special Agent-in-Charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in New York, James T. Hayes, Jr., said: “The smuggling of toxic, tainted and hazardous products threatens the health and safety of consumers who unwittingly purchase and use them. The manufacture, illegal importation, marketing, distribution and sale of these products amounts to theft and threatens the economic security of the United States. HSI maintains a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to the illegal importation of smuggled goods.”

District Attorney Vance offered these tips for consumers:

1. Consider integrated pest management measures as an alternative to chemical pesticides.
2. Buy only pesticide products whose labels are written in English and reflect the EPA registration numbers.
3. When using a pesticide product, comply with application, storage and disposal instructions on the product’s label.
4. Keep all pesticide products out of reach of children and domestic animals.
5. Consider hiring a professional pest exterminator.
6. In the event of pesticide ingestion, call the Poison Control Center immediately, and take the product’s label with you when you seek medical attention.

Defendant Information:

XUE H. CHEN, D.O.B. 6/23/58

New York, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 38 counts



BI YING JIANG, D.O.B. 6/24/60

New York, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 217 counts
* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Adulterated and Misbranded Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 3 counts
* Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count



JIN RONG JIANG, D.O.B. 1/6/77

New York, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 65 counts



XIU HUA LIN, D.O.B. 3/14/62

New York, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 262 counts
* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Adulterated and Misbranded Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 229 counts



YAO LZU, D.O.B. 5/19/55

Queens, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 233 counts



LIU WEN SHENG, D.O.B. 12/24/63

New York, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 522 counts
* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Adulterated and Misbranded Pesticide an unclassified misdemeanor, 102 counts
* Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count



QI LIAN TAN, D.O.B. 7/15/68

Brooklyn, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 145 counts



JINWEN WANG, D.O.B. 2/17/56

New York, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 350 counts
* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Adulterated and Misbranded Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 122 counts
* Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count



SHI J. WU, D.O.B. 3/26/66

Brooklyn, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide an unclassified a class U misdemeanor, 131 counts



JI HUI YANG, D.O.B. 7/5/59

New York, NY

Charges:

* Unlawful Distribution, Sale, Offer for Sale and Use of an Unregistered Pesticide, an unclassified misdemeanor, 404 counts

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