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Two Pennsylvania Men Plead Guilty To Conspiring To Defraud the United States and Violate the Clean Air Act

On July 19, 2018, Joseph Powell and John Joseph, employees of Rockwater Northeast, LLC (Rockwater), Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to conspiring to defraud the United States and violate the Clean Air Act. The charges related to a scheme to defraud EPA, which implements and enforces emissions standards for air pollutants for diesel vehicles under the Clean Air Act, and FMCSA, which implements and enforces annual inspection standards for commercial motor vehicles (CMV).

On May 25, 2018, five individuals—Powell, Joseph, Gavin Rexer, Dennis Paulhamus, and Timothy Sweitzer—were charged with conspiracy. Rexer, Powell, and Joseph worked for Rockwater, which transported water and wastewater to Pennsylvania’s hydraulic fracturing industry. Paulhamus owned DJ Paulhamus Trucking, and Sweitzer owned Sweitzer’s Garage, LLC, both based in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. 

The investigation disclosed that between August 2013 and June 2014, the five individuals conspired to illicitly disable the emissions control devices in Rockwater’s CMVs. Specifically, they removed the CMVs’ stock exhaust systems and replaced them with straight pipes, or hollowed out the emissions exhaust components by removing environmental filters and elements. The co-conspirators also disabled and manipulated the CMVs’ onboard diagnostics with high-tech “defeat” devices obtained from Paulhamus and Sweitzer. They concealed these purchases in Rockwater’s books and records by mislabeling them as “exhaust systems.” They then falsely indicated that the illegally modified CMVs had passed vehicle inspections at Sweitzer’s Garage, an inspection station certified by PennDOT.

Rexer, Paulhamus, and Sweitzer pleaded guilty on June 28, 2018.

DOT-OIG is working on this investigation with EPA-CID. FMCSA, PSP Bureau of Patrol, and PSP Commercial Vehicle Safety Division provided substantial assistance.