Tucson Businessman Convicted for Unlawful Possession and Use of a Chemical Weapon
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 09, 2012|
TUCSON, AZ—On October 5, 2012, a federal jury in Tucson found Todd Russell Fries, aka Todd Burns, 49, of Tucson, guilty of unlawful possession and use of a chemical weapon and providing false information to the FBI. The case was tried before U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson between September 18, 2012 and October 5, 2012. Fries is currently being held in custody pending sentencing, which is set before Judge Jorgenson on December 14, 2012.
Evidence presented at trial showed that the victims hired Fries, the owner of Burns Power Washing, to perform work on the driveway of their northwest Tucson home. Although Fries’ employees performed the work, the victims were not happy with its quality. The victims ultimately stopped payment on the final installment, which was a check in the amount of $200 made payable to Fries.
Following cancellation of the check, the victims were the subject of what was originally thought to be a hate crime. On the morning of November 1, 2008, the victims woke up to find that motor oil, paint, grease, feces, dead animals (including woodpeckers), and foam packing peanuts had been strewn on the driveway leading up to the front door of their home. The home and driveway had been painted with graffiti, which included swastikas and slurs. The garage door was sealed shut with an adhesive.
As a result of the first attack, the victims moved to a gated community, near the Omni National Golf Course. On the morning of August 2, 2009, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department received several emergency calls that reported a strong chemical smell near the Omni National Golf Course. The Sheriff’s Department and the Northwest Fire Department responded to the victims’ home and observed a strong chlorine smell as well as a huge white cloud that enveloped the neighborhood. After evacuating the neighborhood, deputies found buckets of burning, gas-emitting, debris in front of the home as well as on the back patio of the home. Deputies also found a thick, viscous, slimy material, which appeared to be a combination of paint, motor oil, and foam peanuts, spread on the front driveway, the sidewalk, and the walkway leading to the front door of the home. In addition, deputies found dead animal and woodpecker carcasses strewn in the front of the home. Gang graffiti was spray painted on the front of the home. The front door, windows, and garage door were all sealed shut with a foam expanding seal.
The FBI investigation was able to link the items found at the scenes of both attacks to Fries.
A conviction for unlawful use of a chemical weapon carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. A conviction for false statement to a federal agency carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, the Marana Police Department, the Tucson Police Department, and the Northwest Fire Department. The prosecution is being handled by Beverly K. Anderson and David A. Pimsner, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Tucson and Phoenix.