Augusta, GA -- Zong Geng Chen, 47, of Augusta, Georgia was sentenced last week by U. S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall to 5 months in prison followed by 5 months of home confinement and 3 years of supervised release for illegally repackaging pesticides to distribute to restaurants across the country and for making a false statement to federal agents.
According to the evidence presented during the guilty plea and sentencing hearings, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) was referred to investigate Chen and his company, Chen and Friends Pest Solutions, later renamed C&Z Pest Solutions, after state investigators discovered repackaged pesticide inside a restaurant in Missouri that Chen had distributed. In December, 2012, after an EPA investigation, Chen entered into a Consent Order and Final Agreement with the EPA where he agreed to cease repackaging pesticide and pay a fine of $9,433.01 for previous violations. In late 2013, investigators with the EPA received information that additional repackaged insecticide was recovered in restaurants in Indiana and Missouri. An investigation showed that these bottles of repackaged pesticide could be traced back to Chen and were distributed after Chen agreed to cease repackaging. As part of the labeling on his repackaged pesticide, Chen warned not to show the pesticide to the “health department.”
Thereafter, Special Agents with the EPA conducted a covert conversation with Chen, during which the agents posed as perspective customers and Chen stated that he was allowed to sell pesticide. A few days later, EPA Special Agents held another conversation where they identified themselves and questioned Chen about his repackaging pesticides and his compliance with the Consent Order and Final Agreement. At that time, Chen falsely assured agents that he was not repackaging pesticides again because he knew it was wrong.
“If pesticides are not handled safely and as directed there can be severe, even fatal, consequences,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Georgia. “Last week’s sentencing demonstrates EPA’s commitment to implementing pesticide regulations to protect public health. EPA and its partner agencies will prosecute those who break the law in order to make a profit.”
United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “In this case, the defendant was repacking and distributing pesticides to restaurants, thereby putting patrons in harm’s way. This Office will continue to assist its partner agencies in investigating and prosecuting those who put the safety of our communities at risk.”
EPA Special Agents Chuck Carfagno, Mike Sparks, and Kimmy Poon conducted the investigation which led to the information and plea. Assistant United States Attorney C. Troy Clark is the prosecutor in this case. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.