If you hire someone to do work around your house, what’s the worst that could happen? There might be a monetary dispute, the work might not be done to your satisfaction, or perhaps the contractor could cause some minor damage. Well, if you think that’s the extent of it, you might be interested in a recent story out of Tucson.
The victims in this case, the owners of a home, hired a power washing company to work on their house. The company performed the work, but the homeowners were dissatisfied with the quality, so they stopped payment on their last check, which was for $200. So far, so good. You’d expect that the company and the homeowners would work thing out amicably, or, worst case, they’d make a trip to small claims court. Not in this case, and what happened may shock you.
One morning after the dispute had come to a head, the victims awoke to find motor oil, paint, feces, dead animals and other debris in their driveway, which, along with the front door, had been painted with swastikas and ethnic slurs. Thinking this was a hate crime, the couple moved to a gated community near the Omni National Golf Course. About nine months after the first incident, their new home, as well as the entire neighborhood, was engulfed in a chemical cloud that was determined to have been the result of buckets of burning chlorine. Police also found additional damage to the exterior of the home.
Strange as it may seem, FBI agents were able to link both the incidents to the same man – you guessed it – the owner of the power washing company. He was convicted by a jury in federal court of violating the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 229, prohibiting, among other things, the possession or use of a “chemical weapon”, which includes any toxic chemical, except where it is intended for a lawful purpose and is of a type and quantity consistent with use for a lawful purpose. And recently he was sentenced to 151 months, or just over 12½ years, in federal prison.
Just another remarkable example of how a simple dispute can skyrocket out of control, and result in dangerous and destructive behavior affecting an entire community.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1400
Phoenix, AZ 85004