SAN DIEGO CA (4/28/2021) – Saul Flores Banuelos of Apple Valley, California, was sentenced yesterday to 60 days in custody and ordered to pay $1,200 restitution for smuggling illegal pesticides across the border on April 21, 2020. The order of restitution was to cover the cost of disposal of the pesticides.
In pleading guilty in September of 2020, Flores Banuelos admitted that he entered the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry driving a GMC Yukon. After he advised the primary inspector he was not bringing anything from Mexico, inspectors found eight one-liter bottles of the Mexican pesticide Qufuran, three bottles of alcohol and four kilograms of various medications that had not been declared. According to sentencing documents, a subsequent search of Flores Banuelos’s vehicle uncovered receipts for two previous purchases approximately six months earlier of 15 bottles of Qufuran.
The pesticides imported by Flores Banuelos were labeled in Spanish and did not bear any EPA registration number, as required by law for pesticides intended for use in the United States. Pesticides with the active ingredient found in the Qufuran imported by Flores Banuelos may not be legally imported, sold, or distributed in the United States. In addition, the lawful importation of pesticides requires a Notice of Arrival to be provided to U.S. Customs pursuant to 19 CFR § 12.112. Flores Banuelos provided no such Notice of Arrival for the pesticides in question.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the pesticides involved were acutely toxic. Carbofuran, the active ingredient in Qufuran, is classified by EPA as Toxicity Category I, the highest toxicity category, based upon its lethal potency from absorption by ingestion, contact with skin, and inhalation. The use of these chemicals pose a danger to humans and wildlife that might come in contact with them, as well as cannabis users who ingest products treated with them. Moreover, these chemicals are known to have injured law enforcement officers engaged in the eradication of illegal marijuana cultivation sites in California.
“Illegal pesticides are extremely toxic and harmful,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “We will continue to enforce smuggling laws to protect people, animals and the environment from these harmful chemicals.” Grossman praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson, DOJ trial attorney Stephen Da Ponte and agents from Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division for their excellent work on this case.
“The pesticides involved in this case pose serious public health and environmental dangers,” said Special Agent in Charge Scot Adair of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in California. “The sentence in this case demonstrates that individuals who intentionally violate smuggling and environmental protection laws will be held responsible for their crimes.”
“Illegal pesticides contain very dangerous and toxic chemicals, and their use jeopardizes public safety, pollutes the environment, and puts people’s health at risk,” said Cardell T. Morant, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “These unregistered substances can be very harmful, and HSI and our partners at EPA-Criminal Investigation Division, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to working together to stop these deadly pesticides from entering the United States.”
Flores Banuelos was ordered to begin serving his sentence on July 26, 2021.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Melanie K. Pierson and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Stephen Da Ponte.
Contact: Assistant U. S. Attorney Melanie K. Pierson (619) 546-7976