PORTLAND — Stacey Sawyer of Naples was suffering from dizzy spells and other health problems in 2005, so she consulted a doctor, who found high levels of uranium in her urine.

She and her husband, Ted, had the well water in their home tested. The results showed unacceptably high levels of uranium, which is found naturally in rocks, soil and groundwater.

For a few years, they drank only bottled water. Then the Sawyers bought a reverse osmosis filter from Water Treatment Equipment in Yarmouth.

The salesman for the company, Daryl Quinn, sent them a water quality report after the filter was installed in April 2008, showing that the water was safe to drink.

A year later, as the Sawyers were thinking about selling their house, they called the laboratory that had done the test. They learned that the 2008 testing had found that the uranium level remained unacceptable.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent an investigator to speak with Quinn at his home in Cumberland. The longtime salesman, who had an unblemished performance record and a good reputation in the community over three decades, admitted that he had doctored the water quality report because he wanted to be done with the sale.

Quinn, 54, was charged with mail fraud, and on Tuesday he received his sentence in federal court: three years of probation, a $3,500 fine, $950 restitution to the Sawyers and a felony conviction that will always be on his record.

“It’s not simply a garden-variety fraud case because of the context in which it occurred,” Judge D. Brock Hornby said during the sentencing in U.S. District Court. Hornby said the breach of trust was serious because the public depends on honest, accurate handling of water quality reports.

The Sawyers have declined a request for an interview because of a potential civil claim against Quinn and the company for which he worked. At the sentencing, Stacey Sawyer told Hornby that she and her husband are scared about their health problems, now and in the future, because they may be linked to the uranium in the water they drank.

“Mr. Quinn has thrown our lives into a tailspin physically, emotionally and financially,” Sawyer said.

She said the couple put their plans to sell their house on hold as they dealt with the investigation into Quinn’s actions. They still live in the house, and have been using bottled water.

Quinn was represented by James Burke of the University of Maine School of Law’s Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, and student attorney Charles Adams.

Adams said their client was not motivated by money to falsify the report. Quinn received a $150 commission for the sale of the $950 system, and he was earning about $41,000 per year.

Adams attributed the crime to “incredible, stupid laziness.”

In court papers, Burke and Adams said Quinn has built an exceptional reputation over 30 years as a salesman, father and citizen. He is vice president of the Woodfords Club in Portland, and he organizes monthly bean suppers at the Prides Corner Congregational Church. As well, Quinn has loving, strong relationships with his five adult children.

“This is the worst thing that Daryl Quinn has done in his life,” Adams told the judge Tuesday. “He’s committed a crime for the first time. He’s betrayed the trust of the victims, Stacey and Ted Sawyer. He’s going to have to work the rest of his life to repair that damage.”

Quinn also addressed Judge Hornby. He apologized to his family, his community, and most of all, the Sawyers.

“I am very sorry for what I did to them. It was a breach of trust,” he said. “It’s something I’ve had to think about for the last 13 months.”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]