Wisconsin pallet maker fined for environmental fraud

Russel Wetenkamp, site manager for Timber Creek Resource in Wisconsin, pled guilty and was sentenced in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin to criminal violations related to the Plant Protection Act (PPA).

Wetenkamp fraudulently marked wooden pallets indicating that they were compliant with the regulations under the PPA that govern the use of wood packaging material in international trade even though they had not been properly treated to prevent the spread of wood-boring pests. 

Wood pallets sold for international packing are required to undergo a heat-treatment process, which prevents insects or microorganisms from infesting the wood or contaminating products being transported on the pallets. After the wood is treated, it is marked by a stamp issued by the Secretary of Agriculture.

From November 2014 until April 2015, Wetenkamp, who was working as the Site General Manager of the Timber Creek Resources’ Newton, Wisconsin, facility, sold falsely stamped pallets to numerous customers.

As part of a plea agreement, Wetenkamp pled guilty to violating the Act and making a false statement (18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2); 7 U.S.C. § 7734(a)(1)(A)), which are both criminal charges.  Wetenkamp was sentenced to pay a $25,000 fine, complete a two-year probation term, and pay restitution in the amount of $18,748 to his customers.

Some sources say that Wetenkamp’s actions caused at least $344,000 in losses to his customers.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

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