JS men accused of tampering with trucks used for gas industry

JERSEY SHORE — Two men from Jersey Shore are among five men accused of conspiring to illegally alter emission systems on more than 30 trucks with heavy-duty diesel engines belonging to a company that transports water and wastewater to and from natural gas wells.

They were charged Friday by criminal information filed in U.S. Middle District Court with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and defraud the United States.

Three of the five were employed by Rockwater Northeast of Canonsburg, a subsidiary of Rockwater Energy Solutions Inc. of Houston, Texas.

The charges allege Gavin Rexer, 29, Joseph Powell, 31, John Joseph, 38, Dennis Paulhamus, 39, and Timothy Sweitzer, 41, beginning in August 2013 tampered with and removed emission monitoring devices on trucks to reduce repair costs and maintenance down time.

Powell is identified as general manager of water management, Rexer as the shop manager in the Linden area and Joseph the shop manager for a facility in Hickory, all for Rockwater.

Paulhamus owns a trucking business and Sweitzer a garage, both in the Jersey Shore area.

The Clean Air Act prohibits tampering with on-board diagnostic systems that force the engine to shut down when emissions exceed threshold levels, the information states.

Repairs for malfunctioning or deteriorating emissions systems could cost up to $10,000, the government says.

The three Rockwater employees are accused of being responsible for the removal of the emission control devices and re-welding the entry point to create the false appearance they remained installed on the trucks.

Rexer and unnamed others are alleged to have sold titanium and other metals removed from the devices.

Powell, Rexer and Joseph also are accused of arranging the purchase from Paulhamus and Sweitzer of defeat devices to disable the on-board diagnostic systems.

The purchase of those devices, which also improve heavy-duty diesel engines’ horsepower, torque and fuel efficiency, was concealed on Rockwater books by mislabeling them as “complete exhaust systems” and “replace exhaust systems,” the information alleges.

Sweitzer is accused of issuing certificates stating the emission control devices met Pennsylvania Department of Transportation standards when he knew they had been disabled.

Between Sept. 1, 2013, and May 16, 2014, Rexer and Joseph are alleged to have caused Rockwater to buy at least 27 defeat devices and “straight pipes” from Paulhamus for approximately $62,000. Straight pipes are used to replace emission control devices, the government says.

The same two are accused of causing Rockwater between April 14 and June 27, 2014, to buy approximately 20 defeat devices from Switzer. Powell is alleged to have approved the purchases.

Signed agreements to plead guilty filed with the charges state the maximum sentence upon conviction is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.