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December 2, 2022San Diego, CA, United StatesCovid-19

San Diego businessmen, sanitation company plead guilty to fraud, illegal pesticides sales

SAN DIEGO — An investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division and Office of the Inspector General, and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control resulted in guilty pleas from two California businessmen and their company.

On Dec. 1, Integral Hygienic Solutions, Inc., a La Mesa-based sanitation company doing business as TruClean, pleaded guilty in federal court to defrauding customers by falsely claiming that its antimicrobial cleaning product was tested and approved by the EPA.

The company had claimed that its antimicrobial product, TruClean 365, eliminated bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19, on treated surfaces for one year with a single application. The company also claimed that its product had been submitted to the EPA’s Antimicrobials Division for testing and that the EPA had validated their claim of one year of effectiveness through “rigorous testing.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the defendants put TruClean’s own labels on bottles of chemical products purchased from a chemical company on the East Coast. Ray Louis Smith Jr., Ramont Joseph Smith and TruClean then marketed, sold and distributed the newly relabeled products as providing year-long protection against infection from viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, on its social media pages and its website.

Products represented to kill viruses in the environment are regulated by the EPA as pesticides. None of the products sold under the TruClean name were registered as pesticides by the EPA, as required by law. Pesticides that are unregistered may not be sold or distributed in the United States. In pleading guilty, the company admitted that it sold over $800,000 worth of the unregistered pesticides.

“Homeland Security Investigations and our government partners are committed to protecting the American public against criminal networks attempting to illegally sell products that could endanger lives of U.S. consumers for financial gain,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge of HSI San Diego. “We remain vigilant and will use our broad legal authorities to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks seeking to exploit and benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The defendants tried to gain commercial advantage during the pandemic by falsely claiming that the federal government had tested and validated their product,” said U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to investigating and prosecuting criminal cases to assist in protecting the public from frauds such as this.” Grossman also thanked the prosecution team and investigating agencies for their excellent work on this case.

“The defendants in this case knowingly persisted in their false assertions that their pesticide application provided protection against COVID-19,” said Special Agent in Charge Scot Adair of the EPA’s criminal program in California. “As this case demonstrates, EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to holding responsible parties accountable for false claims that put entire communities at risk.”

“This case demonstrates the EPA Office of Inspector General’s commitment to investigate crimes that undermine the integrity of EPA programs and defraud consumers,” said Special Agent in Charge Garrett J. Westfall of the U.S. EPA OIG. “Our investigative team and law enforcement partners held the subjects accountable by quickly uncovering the potential harm to health and safety and by exposing the false claims promoted by TruClean 365.”

This case was prosecuted jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section.

Sentencing is set for Feb. 24, 2023.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 12/05/2022