The owner of a San Francisco Bay Area shipping company has pleaded guilty to illegally transporting hazardous materials and failing to properly declare imports of toxic substances, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed Monday.
On Dec. 20, 2017, Peiwen Zhou, the owner of Union City, Calif.-based AK Scientific, Inc., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
He had been indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2017 and charged with conspiracy, smuggling, and violations of the Hazard Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) and the Toxic Substance Control Act.
It was alleged that between 2008 and 2016, Zhou instructed employees to deliberately ship hazardous materials as nonhazardous to avoid HMTA requirements. The company willfully and recklessly made shipments to domestic and international customers without labeling them as hazardous. Hazardous material markings are used by shippers and first responders to determine the appropriate response in the event of a spill or accident with the package.
The OIG said Zhou admitted he failed to adequately train employees at his company on the requirements of the HMTA, which resulted in AK employees shipping hazardous materials on a number of occasions without properly labeling, marking and identifying the packages.
Zhou also admitted that he caused his company’s employees to fail to comply with the rules and regulations set forth in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Specifically, he acknowledged that he caused AK employees to fail to file TSCA import certifications on a number of occasions when the company imported chemical substances into the United States from China, including on one occasion when a substance was shipped to his company under a different name.
As part of his plea agreement, Zhou agreed to step down as chief executive officer of AK and to play no role in the company’s shipping or regulatory functions, the OIG said.
AK entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in which it agreed to pay a $100,000 fine and retain an independent monitor to oversee compliance. Pursuant to the agreement, the charges against the company will be dismissed if the company abides by the terms of the agreement for three years and complies with safety and labeling requirements.
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