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Post date: December 17 2004

Westchester Business Owner Indicted For Pesticide Fraud

Attorney General Spitzer and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin Crotty today announced the indictment of a Westchester County man who sold his services applying pesticides to homes and businesses while he lacked the licenses, permits or training required by the state.

The business owner, Darrell V. Richardson, 45, of New Rochelle, was arraigned today in Westchester County Court before Judge Robert DiBella and charged with two counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a Class E felony; seven counts of operating an unregistered pesticide business, a misdemeanor; and one count of illegal possession of a restricted use pesticide, a misdemeanor. If convicted, Richardson faces up to four years in state prison and fines of up to $5,000 per day for violations of state environmental laws. Richardson pleaded not guilty to the charges. Judge DiBella set bail at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond.

"The improper application of pesticides poses serious health risks," said Attorney General Spitzer. "For this reason, the state requires applicators to attend training sessions and pass certification tests. These reasonable and responsible requirements were ignored in this case and now the individual should be held accountable."

Commissioner Crotty said: "DEC requires that any business applying pesticides must register with DEC and have a certified pesticide applicator on staff. This helps ensure that all pesticides are correctly applied and enables us to track the amount and type of pesticides used throughout the state. When people ignore these basic environmental laws, they put both the environment and public health in danger. I applaud the efforts of the Environmental Conservation Officers and the Attorney General's Office for bringing this case to justice."

Over several years, Richardson engaged in the business of applying pesticides for hire without having registered with the DEC. During the years 2000 through 2003, he operated two different businesses - - Action Pest Control and Attack Pest Control - - that applied pesticides in Westchester and the Bronx. Richardson advertised both businesses in the Yellow Pages and represented them as fully licensed despite the fact that neither was registered with the DEC. In addition, Richardson allegedly offered guarantees of up to two years but refused to honor them when his treatments failed to eliminate pests.

The indictment charges that from March 2000 through July 2001 Richardson operated Action Pest Control and that from April 2002 through July 2003 he operated Attack Pest Control. Neither business is currently operating. DEC records show that Richardson was not a certified pesticide applicator and neither of his businesses was registered.

DEC Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) began investigating Richardson's businesses in response to complaints from dissatisfied customers. The DEC investigation revealed that Richardson had been operating the businesses from two separate locations in New Rochelle.

The charges in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.