August 21, 2019
Sixth Pennsylvania Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the United States and Violate the Clean Air Act
On August 21, 2019, Brian Mellott, a former inventory and logistics analyst at Rockwater Northeast, LLC (Rockwater), pled guilty in U.S. District Court, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing the lawful function of the Federal Government, and to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act. In August 2018, Mellott was indicted on conspiracy charges related to a scheme to defraud the Environmental Protection Agency (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).
Previously, five individuals—Gavin Rexer, Dennis Paulhamus, Timothy Sweitzer, John Joseph and Joseph Powell—had been charged and pleaded guilty in Federal court to charges stemming from their roles in the conspiracy. Rexer, Powell, and Joseph worked for Rockwater, which transported water and wastewater for Pennsylvania’s hydraulic fracturing industry. Paulhamus owned DJ Paulhamus Trucking, and Sweitzer owned Sweitzer's Garage, LLC, both based in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.
The indictment alleged that between August 2013 and June 2014, Mellott and others 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 “complete replacement exhaust systems.” They then falsely indicated that the modified CMVs had passed vehicle inspections at Sweitzer’s Garage, an inspection station certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
DOT-OIG is conducting this investigation with EPA-Criminal Investigation Division. FMCSA, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Bureau of Patrol and PSP Commercial Vehicle Safety Division provided substantial assistance.