A Neosho company has pleaded guilty in a Springfield federal court to illegally distributing pesticides.

A Neosho company has pleaded guilty in a Springfield federal court to illegally distributing pesticides.

Greenleaf LLC, which operated a facility at the former 84 Lumber Building at 13960 Palm Road, entered the plea Wednesday before federal Magistrate James C. England. According to John F.
Wood, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, owner Tom Smith admitted to receiving broken bags and unwanted pesticides from Wal-Mart stores across the country.

“The large amount of pesticides involved in this criminal conduct created a significant public health hazard and a threat to the environment,” said Wood in a prepared statement. “Wal-Mart paid more than $2.5 million for an environmental cleanup of the site, and today’s tough penalty against Greenleaf should send a message to other companies that they will be held accountable to follow federal environmental laws.”

Wood said Greenleaf received large amounts of pesticides, rodenticides and other products from a Wal-Mart distribution center in Arkansas, which received them from every other Wal-Mart location in the country from January 2007 until January 2008.

Greenleaf no longer operates a facility in Neosho. By pleading guilty, Greenleaf admitted that the firm distributed and sold a large number of the products after removing or defacing the label on the package. The amount of pesticides sold in this manner exceeded 2 million pounds, Wood said.

“Altering the label increases the chance that the pesticides may be used improperly, creating a risk to the public and the environment,” said Michael Burnett, special agent in charge of the EPA’s criminal investigation division in Kansas City. “Today’s criminal plea sends a clear message that we will pursue those who disregard environmental laws.”

The Federal Pesticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act regulates the sale, distribution and use of pesticides. It is unlawful for anyone to detach, alter, deface, or destroy any product labels that are regulated by the statute, Wood said.

Greenleaf will pay $200,000, the maximum fine that can be assessed for violating the act. The company is expected to pay the fine on or before June 23, the date of a sentencing hearing.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robyn L. McKee and was investigated by the EPA’s criminal investigation division and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Neosho Daily News