Exterminator Gets 12 Months for Misusing Pesticides

Methyl Bromide
Methyl Bromide

The pest-control technician who admitted illegal use of a restricted pesticide has been sentenced to a year in federal prison.

Jose Rivera, 59, told the U.S. District Court on St, Thomas Jan. 17 that he sprayed methyl bromide in homes and condominiums at the direction of a supervisor, but said he should have known better.

Rivera pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful use of a registered pesticide in 2018. The charges were related to contracted work performed by Terminix USVI in 2014 and 2015.

On Jan. 17 U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller sentenced the defendant to 12 months in prison on four counts of a 14-count indictment. The magistrate ordered the sentenced to be served concurrently.

There was also an order for a year of supervised release following completion of the prison term. Miller imposed court fees for each of the four guilty pleas and dismissed 10 other counts contained in the indictment.

The counts that sent Rivera to prison included two from an incident on or about March 18, 2015, when prosecutors said the defendant “did knowingly apply restricted use pesticide, METH-O-GAS, containing methyl bromide” at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort, St. John, Bldg. J, lower unit.

The remaining penalty was linked to illegal application of the product, Methyl Bromide 100, at 24 Eliza’s Retreat, St. Croix and 42 Estate Cotton Valley, St. Croix, “for the purpose of exterminating of household pests.”

Methyl bromide gas was classified as a restricted pesticide by federal authorities decades ago. It is authorized for outdoor use only in agricultural settings.

In the Sirenusa case, court documents include photos of damage caused by the powder post beetle, a small insect that bores holes in wooden furniture. Four visitors from Delaware became critically ill after being exposed to methyl bromide fumes in the 2015 incident.

Federal Public Defender Kia Sears asked Miller for leniency and submitted a lengthy written statement describing Rivera as a hard-working immigrant and family man who served, for a time, in the Virgin Islands National Guard.

“At no point did Mr. Rivera realize that he was using methyl bromide in a manner that was inconsistent with its label,” Sears said. At the same time, she admitted on behalf of her client that it was up to him as a pest control technician to learn more about the proper use of methyl bromide and not to blindly follow the directions of his supervisor.

The defendant was remanded to the custody of U.S. marshals to start serving his sentence at the end of the hearing.