Palo Alto man pleads guilty to shipping hazardous materials

Daily Post Staff Writer

A Palo Alto man pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday (Dec. 20) to illegally transporting hazardous chemicals and failing to declare imports of toxic items, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Peiwen Zhou, 55, agreed to step down as CEO of Union City-based AK Scientific Inc., and to play no role in the company’s shipping or regulatory functions. The company, meanwhile, agreed to pay a $100,000 fine and retain an inde- pendent monitor to oversee compliance.

Zhou faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for violating the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, or HMTA, and a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $50,000 fine for each day of violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.

If the company abides by the prosecution agreement for three years, including maintaining compliance with safety and labeling requirements, charges against the company will be dropped.

Zhou admitted that he failed to adequately train employees at AK Scientific on the requirements of the HMTA and that employees had repeatedly shipped hazardous materials without properly labeling, marking and identifying the packages.

“The rules and regulations the defendant violated are designed to keep the public safe from hazardous materials and toxic substances, and we are committed to prosecuting those who flaunt them,” U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch said in a statement.

Zhou also admitted that his employees had not filed TSCA import certifications on numerous occasions when the company imported chemicals into the country, including one time when ethylene dibromide was shipped to AK Scientific from China under a different name. Ethylene dibromide has been used as a pesticide and fumigant and is a known carcinogen.

Zhou is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18 by U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco.