Pesticide Used Illegally At Heritage Healthcare In Fort Oglethorpe, Federal Indictment Charges

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - by Judy Frank
An Alabama pest control services company and its owner face more than 50 federal indictments for unlawful use of pesticides in Georgia nursing homes, including Fort Oglethorpe Nursing Center.

The nursing home, which also goes by the name of Heritage Healthcare according to a woman answering the phone, referred questions concerning the case to its corporate headquarters.

The indictment – filed in the Macon district of U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia – charges Steven A. Murray, 54, of Pelham, Ala., and his company, Bio-Tech Management Inc., with felonies ranging from unlawful use of a pesticide to conspiracy to mail fraud.

The 51 counts listed include one count of conspiracy, 10 counts of making false statements, 20 counts of falsifying records, 10 counts of mail fraud and 10 counts of unlawful use of a pesticide. The case involving the Fort Oglethorpe nursing home is just one of 51 listed in an indictment which alleges that from October 2005 to June 2009, Steven Murray and Bio-Tech repeatedly misapplied the registered pesticide Termidor SC in nursing homes in the state of Georgia and falsified documents to conceal the unlawful use.  The indictment further alleges that Murray and Bio-Tech sent invoices through the U.S. Mail to their nursing home clients to solicit payment for the unlawful pesticide applications.

“Beginning no later than December 2006,” according to the indictment. “conspirator #1 routinely used Termidor, a registered pesticide, in a manner inconsistent with its labeling by applying it indoors and more than twice per year, including misuse on the following dates at the listed nursing homes, each of which constitutes a separate overt act of the conspiracy:
 
8/26/08 – Gordon Healthcare – Calhoun, GA
1/9/09 – Arrowhead Health Center – Jonesboro, GA
1/28/09 – Ft. Oglethorpe Nursing Center – Fort Oglethorpe, GA
1/29/09 – Winthrop Manor – Rome, GA
2/12/09 – Life Care Center Gwinnett – Lawrenceville, GA”
 
“At all times relevant to this indictment,” according to the indictment, “Termidor has been a lawfully registered pesticide with a manufacturer’s label approved by the United States . . . EPA. The active ingredient in Termidor is Fipronil, which constitutes 9.1 percent of the pesticide.
 
“According to the directions contained on the Termidor label,’ it continues,  “this pesticide was not permitted to be used inside a structure to kill or control ants, cockroaches, earwigs, silverfish, spiders or other listed perimeter pests except as a foam application into wall voids. The Termidor label further prohibited more than two applications per year to kill these listed perimeter pests.”
 
The United States Department of Justice press release announcing the indictments reads as follows:
 
PEST CONTROL COMPANY AND ITS OWNER CHARGED WITH UNLAWFUL APPLICATION OF PESTICIDES AND FALSIFICATION
 
WASHINGTON – A pest control services company and its owner have been charged today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia with conspiracy, unlawful use of pesticides, false statements, falsification of records and mail fraud, announced Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Michael J. Moore, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. 
 
Steven A. Murray, 54, of Pelham, Ala., and his company, Bio-Tech Management Inc., were charged in a felony indictment with one count of conspiracy, 10 counts of making false statements, 20 counts of falsifying records, 10 counts of mail fraud and 10 counts of unlawful use of a pesticide.
 
The indictment alleges that from October 2005 to June 2009, Steven Murray and Bio-Tech repeatedly misapplied the registered pesticide Termidor SC in nursing homes in the state of Georgia and falsified documents to conceal the unlawful use.  The indictment further alleges that Murray and Bio-Tech sent invoices through the U.S. Mail to their nursing home clients to solicit payment for the unlawful pesticide applications.   
 
According to the indictment, Steve Murray and Bio-Tech provided monthly pest control services to nursing homes in Georgia by spraying pesticides in and around their clients’ facilities.  The indictment alleges that, at the direction of Murray, Bio-Tech employees routinely applied the pesticide Termidor indoors more than twice a year, contrary to the manufacturer’s label instructions.  The indictment further alleges that after the Georgia Department of Agriculture made inquiries regarding Bio-Tech’s misuse of Termidor and other pesticides, Murray directed several of his Bio-Tech employees to alter company service reports with the intent to obstruct an investigation.         
 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require that all pesticides be registered, properly labeled, and applied as specified by manufacturer’s labeling to protect public health and the environment.
 
A criminal indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual or company charged by criminal indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. 
 
The falsifying records and mail fraud charge carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine per count.  The false statements charges each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 
       
These cases are being investigated by Special Agents of the EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division in Atlanta and prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Richard J. Powers and Adam C. Cullman of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section.




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