Written by The Business Journal Staff
The Fresno County District Attorney’s office has partnered with 16 other offices in California to resolve a case involving pesticide violations and unfair business practices.
The civil case was filed against national franchise Pestmaster Services LP, headquartered in Nevada, and the company’s owner, Jeffrey Van Diepen.
The violations started in 2015 after agricultural commissioners issued notices of violation to the company. Even after a district attorney’s office contacted the company in 2017, the violations continued, according to a news release.
Van Diepen is required to permanently surrender his California pest control licenses. He admitted to performing pesticide applications for hire without registering with the County Agricultural Commissioner, without submitting monthly pesticide use reports and performing pest control work between 2017 and 2018, and 2020 to 2021 without a valid license.
Employees were not properly trained, and failed to use proper personal protective equipment on the job, according to the release.
Additionally, Pestmaster and Van Diepen allowed unlicensed employees to contract and perform structural pest control work. Van Diepen and his company also admitted to submitting a misleading proposal to the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2015, stating that the company was in compliance with all federal, state and local regulations, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The defendants are required to pay $575,000 in penalties and costs. They are also required to contract out employee training, give prior notice to county officials of pesticide applications and hire an outside compliance manager.
Van Diepen sold his interest in, and ceased being the president of, Pestmaster late last year, said the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.
New ownership will be able to run the business – without Van Diepen – and engage with franchisees without the necessity of anyone losing their jobs, if that is how they choose to operate.
Fresno County said in a statement that this litigation was not designed to shut down the business, force job losses of employees or lead to franchise closures. Instead, it was designed to hold to account and remove a bad actor at the top for his illegal conduct and for his unfair business practices that put competitors at a disadvantage – all while allowing the company, along with its employees and franchisees, to continue to operate under new leadership.