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Virginia Fire Safety Company, Owner, and Manager Plead Guilty to Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Violations

On July 26, Fire Safety Products, Inc. (FSPI), Christiansburg, VA; its vice-president, Gilbert Lee Maxwell; and office manager, Allen Jay Dickerson, pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, VA to charges of violating criminal statutes related to DOT HazMat regulations regarding testing and certification of compressed gas cylinders. The company also pled guilty to mail fraud for billing customers for the false certifications. Failure to perform accurate periodic hydrostatic retesting of gas cylinders places lives of firefighters and other users at risk of injury or death due to explosion or malfunction. The investigation found that over 1,200 cylinders (including medical oxygen tanks and firefighter air packs) serviced by FSPI were falsely certified as having been retested. Testing either was not conducted or was inadequate due to improperly trained FSPI employees and/or poorly calibrated test equipment. FSPI, Maxwell, and Dickerson are scheduled for sentencing on October 14, 2005. PHMSA assisted in this investigation.