Terminix manager sentenced to one year in prison for Sirenusa poisoning

A Terminix manager who pleaded guilty to the dispersal of methyl bromide in connection with the poisoning of a family of four at Sirenusa Condominiums on St. John has been sentenced to a year in prison, according to court documents.

ST. THOMAS — The manager for Terminix USVI who applied methyl bromide at a condominium on St. John has been sentenced to a year in prison for causing severe neurological damage to a family from Delaware who was visiting the island, court documents show.

Jose Rivera, 59, the former manager of Terminix USVI, was sentenced Jan. 17 to one year’s imprisonment and one year of supervised release following his conviction based on a federal indictment unsealed on April 12.

The prison sentence is less than U.S. Sentencing Guidelines dictate, according to the plea deal. The deal, written by U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Chief George Massucco-LaTaif, puts the presumptive range at between 33 and 57 months imprisonment, depending on the severity given to the offense.

Rivera originally had faced 14 counts: One count of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, four counts of dispersing methyl bromide at the Sirenusa Condominiums on Oct. 20, 2014, eight counts of dispersing methyl bromide at locations on St. Croix between April 2013, and a single count of dispersing methyl bromide in Estate Solberg on St. Thomas.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached in September, Rivera agreed to plead guilty to the Rodenticide Act violation, one of the counts of application at Sirenusa, one count of dispersal on St. Croix, and the St. Thomas count, according to the plea deal.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller issued one year of imprisonment and one year of probation for each count, but structured the sentences to be served concurrently, resulting in one year each of prison and supervised release.

Rivera also will not have to pay victim restitution, according to the plea deal. Terminix already has agreed to pay the Esmond family $90 million, in addition to $9.2 million in fines to the government.

As part of the plea deal, Rivera waived his right to appeal the sentence, according to court documents.

The sentencing brings to an end criminal proceedings arising from the 2015 poisoning, which affected Stephen, and teenagers Ryan, and Sean Esmond as well as Theresa Devine, Stephen’s wife. Terminix International and Terminix International USVI pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges arising from the incident. The family suffered crippling neurological damage after being overcome by methyl bromide fumes while staying at Villa Capri at Sirenusa.

However, a civil lawsuit brought by Catalus Capital LLC and VVS LLC, the owners of Sirenusa, against ServiceMaster Co., which owns Terminix, appears destined for trial after attempts to mediate the dispute were unsuccessful.

The territorial government also sued Terminix in February 2017.

Terminix has since withdrawn from the territory, though a spokesman for the company has denied that the departure is related to ongoing legal proceedings surrounding the territory.

Methyl bromide, a colorless poisonous gas, is a strictly regulated substance in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency banned its importation or manufacture starting in 2005, though the substance is still used in limited agricultural and industrial applications, according to the EPA website.

Exposure to methyl bromide can cause convulsions, coma, and long-term neurological and cognitive defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

— Contact Brian O’Connor at 340-714-9130 or email boconnor@dailynews.vi.