December 09, 2022
Paul Andrecola, the Burlington County businessman who sold more than $2.7 million worth of unregistered pesticides to the U.S. government and other customers, falsely claiming they would kill the coronavirus, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison, federal prosecutors said.
Andrecola, 63, of Maple Shade, worked for three companies based in Mount Laurel that manufactured various disinfectant products under the brand name GCLEAN. The products were not registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, which regulates the sale of pesticides to ensure their safety and effectiveness, according to court documents.
FIFRA requires all pesticides to be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency before they can be distributed, and the products must undergo a thorough review by the EPA before sellers can make claims that their products protect against pathogens.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPA created a list of approved products that are effective against COVID-19, and has continued to update the list.
Because GCLEAN's products were unregistered and not listed with the EPA, Andrecola placed another company's EPA registration number on his company's products and falsely claimed the pesticides were approved by the agency to kill the coronavirus, according to court documents.
Andrecola created multiple false documents to support his claims to customers, prosecutors said. From March 2020 through May 2021, he sold more than 150 unregistered pesticides for a profit of more than $2.7 million.
"Paul Andrecola's scheme profited on the fears of the American people during the height of concerns about transmission of COVID-19," said Phillip Sellinger, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. "Our office is dedicated to protecting public health and prosecuting to the full extent of the law fraudsters who commit such egregious criminal acts."
The purchasers included a police department in Delaware, a fire department in Virginia, a medical clinic in Georgia, a janitorial supply company in New York, a school district in Wisconsin, and several U.S. government agencies – the U.S. Marshals Service, Moody Air Force Base, the National Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs.
Andrecola also was sentenced to forfeit the $2.7 million in proceeds from the scheme and three years of supervised release. He must make full restitution for all losses resulting from his crimes.
The businessman pleaded guilty in June to selling an unregistered pesticide, wire fraud and making false claims. His guilty plea came just months after the Department of Justice began cracking down on people who stole COVID-19 relief funds or participated in other COVID-related schemes.
In March, the White House appointed Kevin Chambers as the director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement to pursue cases in which people took advantage of pandemic confusion to perpetrate criminal activity.
While the focus of the prosecutor is to investigate individuals who stole at least $8 billion in COVID-19 relief funds, the prosecutor has focused on "large-scale criminal enterprises and foreign actors" who engaged in pandemic-related fraud.
Andrecola is responsible for perpetrating the largest pandemic fraud case related to the sale of unregistered pesticides charged nationwide, according to Tyler Amom, special agent in charge of EPA's criminal division of New Jersey.