St. John Tradewinds News

Judge Permits Justice to Subpoena Records from Terminix USVI

ST. CROIX — A Superior Court judge on Tuesday upheld a subpoena issued by the Justice Department in its probe of a St. Croix-based exterminator.

Attorney General Claude Walker praised the ruling by the judge in the case of Terminix International USVI. In a miscellaneous action filed by Walker, Justice wants Terminix executives to turn over documents that show how they acquired a banned pesticide, methyl bromide.

Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks denied a request by Terminix to quash a subpoena from Attorney General Claude Earl Walker ordering the pest control company to provide documents and information relative to an ongoing investigation.

Willocks issued a Memorandum and Opinion on Aug. 24 in response to a petition from attorney Kevin Rames. Rames sought to quash a subpoena request filed by Justice Aug. 9.

Since 1984, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned the indoor use of methyl bromide products. Applications of the banned pesticide at the St. John condominium resort, Sirenusa, in March 2015 resulted in near fatal injuries to a visiting family from Delaware.

Rames, representing Terminix, successfully opposed the Justice Dept. subpoena in July. At that time Willocks sided with Rames, saying Walker did not fully inform the company that information being sought through the subpoena might justify criminal charges against them.

The attorney general needed to more clearly state that Justice sought to charge the defendant under the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (CICO), Willocks said.

“The nature of the conduct under investigation for suspected violation of CICO, namely — is the Attorney General investigating Terminix for misleading and deceiving statements regarding methyl bromide or for illegal application of methyl bromide,” the judge wrote on July 16.

Justice officials revised their motion for miscellaneous action and came back to the court with a clarified request.

To further the investigation, the subpoena is asking for “any writing or any other tangible thing,” including emails and other electronic communications related to — among other things — the acquisition of methyl bromide, its distribution to exterminators for use and representations to clients about which pesticides would be used on their properties.

The memorandum and opinion issued by Willocks on Tuesday also brushed aside a new set of objections raised by Rames. The defense attorney claimed that even with an amended motion, the Justice Department failed to meet the legal threshold for filing racketeering charges under CICO against his client.

The court further ordered that within two weeks from the entry of the order, “the parties shall meet and confer in good faith to resolve as many of the discovery disputes as possible.”