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Post date: April 10 2001

Former Terminix Employee Pleads Guilty

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced the guilty plea of a former service manager of the Terminix International Company for his role in covering up the company's cheating of thousands of customers by applying insufficient amounts of termite pesticides.

Luis Batres, 47, of 643 Willis Avenue, Williston Park, pleaded guilty in Nassau County Court in Hempstead to a count of Scheme to Defraud in the second degree and Falsifying Business Records in the second degree, both class A misdemeanors. Batres was fined $1,000 and given a conditional discharge by Nassau County Court Judge Lea Ruskin. He is the second Terminix employee convicted of falsifying records at the Mineola office.

When DEC inspectors conducted a routine inspection of customer pesticide application records at the Terminix office in January 1999, they suspected that the records had been altered. The ensuing investigation revealed that between 1996 and 1998 Batres assigned Terminix employees to provide termite infestation treatments service to more customers than they could reasonably be expected to properly treat. Investigators said Batres and branch manager Joseph Schaefer knew of the DEC inspection, and the two attempted to cover up the insufficient treatment by altering customer application records.

"This cover up had a significant impact on Terminix customers who were trying to deal with termites," Spitzer said. "As a result of this defendant's actions, paying customers did not receive the treatment they paid for. This ultimately puts the environment at risk because more pesticides have to be applied if reinfestation occurs. My office will continue to work with the DEC to ensure that all pesticide laws and regulations are enforced."

"The DEC regularly inspects commercial pesticide applicators to ensure their compliance with State environmental regulations and our enforcement initiatives have been extremely successful in weeding out those applicators whose disregard for the law puts both the environment and public health at risk," DEC Commissioner Erin M. Crotty said. "I commend both DEC staff and the Attorney General's office for their diligent efforts in this case."

In December 2000, Schaefer pleaded guilty in Nassau County Court to Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, an E felony, and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Rocky Piaggione, Chief of the Environmental Crimes Unit, with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Lesley Brovner, under the supervision of Criminal Prosecution Bureau Chief Janet Cohn. The lead investigator for the DEC was Richard Maggio.