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Oak Ridge company enters plea agreement on federal charges

The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee announced Tuesday that a plea agreement has been reached in a case involving an Oak Ridge company.

Berthold Technologies, based in Oak Ridge, manufactures measurement instruments and systems, admitted that it falsely represented that devices shipped across state lines had been tested to meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation for radioactive containers. The devices were shipped from Oak Ridge to Texas and Oklahoma in March and October 2014.  The company also admitted that it misrepresented where the devices were made when they were shipped, applying a sticker that indicated they had been manufactured in Germany, home of Berthold’s parent company, when they were in fact manufactured in Oak Ridge.

The devices in question were used to measure density of fluids used in natural gas fracking operations, and contained a gamma particle emitter that uses the radioactive isotope Cesium-137. The presence of the isotope required the company to treat the devices as radioactive containers, meaning that the company would have to ensure that they could withstand water spray, stacking, being dropped or breached before they could be shipped across state lines. Berthold has admitted they did not test the devices before they were sent to their destinations.

The plea agreement recommends that the company be fined up to $500,000 at sentencing, as well as $50,000 to be paid upon the plea being formally entered in federal court. According to the US Attorney’s press release (which you can read in its entirety on our website), sentencing will take place 18 months after the plea is entered. During that time, Berthold will work with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation to address any problems that may exist concerning the safety of the devices that have been shipped to Berthold’s customers. Under the terms of the plea agreement, costs associated with remedying any identified problems with the devices will reduce the ultimate fine amount to be paid by Berthold at sentencing.

Company officials released a statement Tuesday accepting full responsibility for what they called “misrepresentations that were made by former employees with regard to the origin and testing requirements” of the devices, and apologized.

(US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Tennessee) Berthold Technologies, USA (Berthold), of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee in which Berthold admits that it falsely represented that devices shipped in interstate commerce had been tested to meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation for radioactive containers. The devices, used to measure density of fluids used in natural gas fracking operations, were shipped from Oak Ridge to Texas and Oklahoma in March and October 2014. 

The plea agreement on file with the U.S. District Court recommends that Berthold be ordered to pay a fine of up to $500,000 at sentencing, with $50,000 to be paid upon entry of the company’s guilty plea in federal court. The plea agreement anticipates that the sentencing hearing be set 18 months after the entry of Berthold’s guilty plea. During the 18 months between guilty plea and sentencing, Berthold will work with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation to address any problems that may exist concerning the safety of the devices that have been shipped to Berthold’s customers. Under the terms of the plea agreement, costs associated with remedying any identified problems with the devices will reduce the ultimate fine amount to be paid by Berthold at sentencing. 

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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