Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Pease said that although the practice, a violation of federal regulations governing transportation of hazardous materials, was not linked to any fires or injuries, the potential was there.
The charge involves about 10,000 shipments made by the company between Jan. 1, 2000, and Aug. 31, 2003, a time Pease said investigators selected arbitrarily in drafting the criminal information.
The 72-year-old Bailey company is ranked as one of the largest U.S. distributors of Zippo-brand lighters and related tobacco accessories. It has total annual sales of $35 million.
Roth, 45, of Eatontown, N.J., yesterday referred questions to Robert S. Bonney Jr., the attorney for Bailey. Bonney said the company had "cooperated fully with the government" since it was confronted by federal authorities in August. Bonney said the company had stopped improper shipping of hazardous materials and implemented an employee training and compliance program.
"We hope to resolve this matter with the U.S. Attorney's Office shortly," Bonney added.
A criminal information means the defendant has waived formal indictment by a federal grand jury. It is considered the prelude to a guilty plea.
According to the criminal charge, federal law requires any company involved in transporting hazardous materials to train and test employees on federal shipping rules and accident prevention, and to refresh that training every three years.
Hazardous materials, including flammable items, must be clearly labeled and must carry explanations to a shipper, driver, and emergency personnel responding to any accident about the critical information about safe handling and storage. Flammable goods can spontaneously ignite when stored in high temperatures.
The criminal information alleges that Roth did not train his employees and chose not to identify the contents of his shipments because he learned that commercial carriers such as Federal Express and UPS imposed a $20 charge per package for moving shipments containing butane canisters, lighters and matches.
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