Two Charged in Liquid Aluminum Sulfate Case

Two water treatment chemicals executives have been charged in Newark, N.J., with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging they conspired to eliminate competition among suppliers of the industrial chemical to municipalities and pulp and paper companies in the United States.

Two water treatment chemicals executives have been charged in Newark, N.J., with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging they conspired to eliminate competition among suppliers of the industrial chemical to municipalities and pulp and paper companies in the United States. DOJ announced the indictment on Feb. 19.

The two are Vincent J. Opalewski, former president, vice president, and general manager of a water treatment chemicals manufacturer based in Parsippany, N.J., and Brian C. Steppig, director of sales and marketing of a water treatment chemicals manufacturer headquartered in Lafayette, Ind.; they are the second and third executives charged in connection with the conspiracy, according to DOJ.

Liquid aluminum sulfate is a coagulant used by cities to treat drinking water and wastewater and by pulp and paper companies in their manufacturing processes.

"Municipalities and pulp and paper companies deserve competitive prices for water treatment chemicals," said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. "These charges reflect our ongoing efforts to hold accountable those who conspire to cheat their customers responsible for their crimes."

"These charges send a message that anyone intent on corrupting the free market will be identified and brought to justice," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Andrew Campi of the FBI's Newark Division. "Our mission is to protect victims who don't see these crimes occurring but who always end up paying the price."

The indictment alleges Opalewski, from 2005 to 2011, and Steppig, from 1998 until 2011, and their co-conspirators participated in the conspiracy by meeting to discuss each other's liquid aluminum sulfate business, agreeing to stay away from each other's historical customers, submitting intentionally losing bids to favor the intended winner of the business, withdrawing inadvertently winning bids, and discussing with each other prices to be quoted to municipalities and pulp and paper companies.

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