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Final defendant involved in a June 2001 explosion at Pyro Products, Inc. and Next F/X. Inc. pleads guilty to making a false statement to investigators

May 17, 2004

For Immediate Release



FINAL DEFENDANT INVOLVED IN A JUNE 2001 EXPLOSION AT PYRO PRODUCTS, INC. AND NEXT F/X. INC. PLEADS GUILTY TO MAKING A FALSE STATEMENT TO INVESTIGATORS





St. Louis, Missouri: The final defendant involved in a June 2001 explosion at Pyro Products, Inc., in Jefferson County pled guilty earlier today to making a false statement in connection with the OSHA investigation, United States Attorney Ray Gruender announced today.



This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Department of Transportation-Office of Inspector General and the Missouri State Fire Marshal's Office, Fire Investigation Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Patrick Flachs and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Reap handled the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.



RUSSELL R. NICKEL, 39, Columbus, Montana, pled guilty to one felony count of making a false statement to a government agency. He appeared this morning before United States District Judge Donald J. Stohr.



Nickel now faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000. Sentencing has been set for August 13, 2004.



According to the facts filed with the court, on June 6, 2001, an explosion occurred at the Pyro Products facility in Dittmer, Missouri, in a work building where Next F/X, Inc. product was being manufactured. Three workers were injured. Because worker injuries occurred, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation began. Nickel admitted in his plea agreement that he lied to OSHA investigators when he denied having any involvement with Next F/X, Inc. Russell Nickel was listed in Missouri incorporation documents as Vice-President of Next F/X, Inc.



Co-defendants RONALD ROBERT WALKER, 41, and his wife, KIM JOAN WALKER, 39, both now residing in Columbus, Montana, previously pled guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to illegally transport hazardous wastes and illegal storage of explosives and await sentencing, which is scheduled for July 30, 2004. PYRO PRODUCTS, INCORPORATED and NEXT FX, Inc. have also pled guilty to related charges and are scheduled for sentencing July 30, 2004.