Visalia woman convicted of smuggling illegal pesticides

Selene Barraza smuggled more than 100 years worth of pesticides banned from the United States

SAN DIEGO – A federal jury convicted a Visalia woman last week of smuggling into the country enough illegal pesticides to last more than 100 years.

Selene Barraza, 34, of Visalia smuggled 25 containers of pesticides from Tijuana, Mexico across the border at San Ysidro, south of San Diego, on Feb. 26, 2020. The pesticides included 12 bottles of Metaldane and six bottles of Furadan. The active ingredient of Metaldane is methamidophos, and the active ingredient of Furdan is carbofuran. Both methamidophos and carbofuran are canceled pesticides, which may not be legally imported, sold, distributed or applied in the United States.

“The jury’s verdict confirms the seriousness of preventing these toxic chemicals from polluting the environment and putting people’s health at risk,” said Cardell T. Morant, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “HSI and our partners at Environmental Protection Agency—Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to working together to stop these deadly pesticides from entering the United States.”

According to trial testimony, Barraza purchased the pesticides at a store in Tijuana, where she was told that it was illegal to cross them into the United States but that if the pesticides were discovered, they would simply be seized. The amount of Metaldane alone purchased by Barraza would have lasted 100 to 200 years if applied to her property, according to the directions on the label. Barraza told agents she intended to use the pesticides and resell them.

“These chemicals are banned in the United States because they are toxic and dangerous,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This verdict is an important reminder that there are serious consequences for those who attempt to smuggle illegal pesticides into the U.S. with no regard for public safety.”

Grossman praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson, Department of Justice Trial Attorney Stephen Da Ponte and agents with Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division for their excellent work to protect the public.

“The jury’s verdict sends a clear message to individuals that knowingly put people at risk” said Scot Adair, the Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California. “With our partner agencies, EPA’s job is to protect the American people from highly toxic pesticides like the ones illegally smuggled into this country by the defendant.”

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson and DOJ Trial Attorney Stephen DaPonte.

Barraza is facing a $250,000 fine and 20 years in prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw on Aug. 20, 2021.

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