Last August, paint manufacturer Erik Norrie of Largo made national news when a shark tore away part of his calf while he was vacationing in the Abaco Islands.
But for years before that, authorities allege, sea creatures were the ones getting a raw deal.
Norrie, 41, and three associates made and sold thousands of gallons of a boat paint that is toxic to marine life — netting $2 million in sales — even after the company agreed to phase out production by Dec. 1, 2005, according to a federal grand jury indictment filed in Miami.
Sea Hawk Biocop Antifouling Coating, used to paint hulls, once contained tributyltin methacrylate, known to leach into water and cause "significant harmful effects" on marine life, the record states. Studies have shown that the compound can cause female snails to grow male genitalia.
The paint was manufactured by New Nautical Coatings Inc. and sold by Sea Hawk Refinish Line Inc. The companies, which share the same Clearwater address, are defendants in the criminal case, along with Norrie, the chief executive officer; his brother, David, company president; Jason Revie, vice president; and Tommy Craft, national sales manager.
All are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud and sale of unregistered pesticide. Additionally, the two Norries and New Nautical Coatings are charged with obstruction of justice. The Norries and Craft are charged with misuse of a government seal. If convicted, the corporate defendants face a fine of up to $500,000 for each felony conviction, and the individual defendants face a maximum of 20 years.
Neither Erik Norrie nor his lawyer returned calls asking for comment. Michael Pasano, attorney for David Norrie, said, "Mr. Norrie will vigorously fight this indictment and maintains he acted at all times correctly and in good faith."
The indictment alludes to sales of the product in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and "elsewhere" between 2004 and 2009, but does not state whether it continued to be sold in the Tampa Bay area.
Neither the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida nor the Environment Protection Agency, which investigated, would answer that question.
Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.