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Sea Hawk Paints executives plead guilty in banned-coating case

Four executives at New Nautical Coatings, doing business as Sea Hawk Paints and Sea Hawk Refinish Line, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Florida to criminal charges in connection with a scheme to unlawfully sell a marine coating that contained an unregistered pesticide.

Chief executive officer Erik Norrie, 42; president David Norrie, 46; vice president Jason Revie, 44; and national sales manager Tommy Craft, 46, each of Hillsborough County, Fla., face prison time — up to five years for David Norrie and one year for the other defendants — and stiff fines at a sentencing hearing on Dec. 5, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

New Nautical Coatings and David Norrie pleaded guilty Oct. 3 before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro to “willfully conspiring to corruptly obstruct the due and proper administration of law under which a pending proceeding was being had before the Environmental Protection Agency,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida. At sentencing, David Norrie faces up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of as much as $250,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, New Nautical Coatings agreed to pay a fine of $1,235,315 and implement a comprehensive environmental compliance plan in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and the EPA.

Sea Hawk Refinish Line and Erik Norrie “pleaded guilty to willfully conspiring to knowingly distribute and sell an unregistered pesticide,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Revie and Craft “pleaded guilty to knowingly distributing and selling an unregistered pesticide,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. At sentencing, all three face up to one year in prison, up to one year of supervised release and a fine of as much as $100,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sea Hawk Refinish Line faces a “fine of up to $200,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain resulting from the offense, whichever is greater, and a term of probation of not more than five years,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to the Feb. 6, 2014, indictment, New Nautical manufactured a paint called Sea Hawk Biocop Anti-Fouling Coating, which contained tributyltin methacrylate, or TBT, a chemical compound found to have significant harmful effects on marine life.

In March 2005, the EPA canceled New Nautical’s registration for Biocop, making it unlawful for New Nautical to manufacture Biocop for sale after Dec. 1, 2005, or to sell the coating domestically after Dec. 31, 2005, according to court documents. The cancellation order included an “existing stock” provision that permitted “persons other than” New Nautical to domestically sell Biocop that New Nautical manufactured before Dec. 1, 2005, and released for shipment before Dec. 31, 2005, according to the indictment.

At that time, New Nautical Coatings was the last manufacturer selling TBT-based anti-fouling marine coatings in the United States, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

To manufacture and sell Biocop after its registration was canceled, New Nautical Coatings conceived and executed a plan to produce and sell Biocop in the United States by making it appear that it had manufactured Biocop prior to Dec. 1, 2005, and sold its inventory of the banned pesticide to distributors, including to co-defendant Refinish Line, by Dec. 31, 2005, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

In an effort to conceal New Nautical’s unlawful production and sale of Biocop from authorities, David Norrie falsely represented to an EPA inspector that New Nautical had sold its existing stock of Biocop to distributors, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. Additionally, after David Norrie sold 60 gallons of Biocop to a customer in Broward County, he directed that customer to tell the EPA that he did not have Biocop and that New Nautical did not sell Biocop, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A joint investigation by the EPA’s criminal investigation division and Office of the Inspector General, along with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, determined that New Nautical Coatings and Sea Hawk Refinish Line, along with their officers, manufactured the illegal anti-fouling coating and then changed the labeling to make it appear that it had been produced before the ban, EPA spokeswoman Davina Marraccini told The Tampa Tribune.

The coating was then sold under the company name Sea Hawk Refinish Line to a boatyard in South Florida.

By producing and selling Biocop for domestic use and application, and by concealing those acts from the EPA and customers, New Nautical, Refinish Line and their co-conspirators derived pecuniary gains in excess of $2 million between 2005 and 2009, the indictment alleges.