Monday, May 7, 2012

West Bloomfield man busted for selling refrigerant on Craigslist without proper credentials

By Tresa Baldas

Detroit Free Press Staff

A West Bloomfield man’s posting on Craigslist landed him in federal court, facing a $5,000 fine. His crime? Trying to sell the refrigerant R-22, which is illegal to sell without proper credentials and training under federal law.

Douglas Mertz, 38, was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood today for his 2009 Craigslist postings, which raised red flags among authorities.

One posting read: "If you cannot get R-22 on your own, no EPA card or license, we can do business," records show. Another posting stated: "I have virgin 30 lb jugs of R-22 that I will sell to anyone who can't otherwise get one for EPA or license reasons and the distributors deny you."

Mertz, who himself was certified, then obtained 10 containers of R-22 and sold them to a buyer who – unbeknownst to him – was an undercover federal agent. To conceal the illegal sale, Mertz prepared a document that falsely identified the buyer as an employee of his business.

"It is a serious offense to sell R-22 or other ozone-depleting refrigerants to people who haven't been trained to properly handle these substances,” said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Michigan.

“In this case, the defendant not only made this illegal sale, but went further and created a false document to cover his tracks. This case demonstrates that anyone who thinks breaking the law is worth the risk should think again."

According to the EPA, certain refrigerants, such as R-22 can, damage the earth's ozone layer if they are released to the atmosphere. Federal guidelines require that individuals who work with ozone-depleting refrigerants like R-22 are trained to properly handle the substances and minimize their release to the atmosphere.

As part of his sentence, Mertz was required to surrender his EPA certification, which allowed him to purchase and work with refrigerants such as R-22.

He was fined $5,000 for delivering a false document regarding a hazardous material. He also was sentenced to one year probation, and ordered to pay restitution up to $750.

Mertz's accomplice, Wasim Ibrahim Bony, was sentenced on April 19 for aiding and abetting Mertz in making and delivering a false document. He was fined $1,500, and ordered to pay up to $750 in restitution.

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