NEWS3 August 2011

Final sentence handed down in child lighter safety test fraud

Legal North America

US— The last of four people charged in connection with faked lighter safety tests has been sentenced in federal court.


Sixty-two-year-old Joyce Serventi was this week given two years probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine after pleading guilty to conspiracy for her role in falsifying data in connection with the tests, which are required by law to ensure cigarette lighters are sufficiently child resistant.

Serventi was a contractor for the now-defunct agency Youth Research, whose president Karen Forcade had earlier admitted faking her own testing data and that of companies she hired to conduct the lighter tests on multiple occasions between March 1994 and August 2005.

Forcade – who was sentenced to eight months in prison, eight months home confinement and a $10,000 fine last September – changed details of tests so they appeared to have been conducted in line with regulations set out by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Details of the birth dates, sex and schools of study participants were altered so that the submitted data would meet mandated protocols.

In one test conducted in May 1998, court documents say, Forcade fabricated data for 96 of the 100 children who comprised the testing panel.

The CPSC approved 97 lighters based on Forcade’s and Youth Research’s test reports. Forcade was paid approximately $15,000 per test by lighter manufacturers or importers.

Stephanie Van Treuren, a 64-year-old contractor for Youth Research was sentenced to two years’ probation, three months home detention and a fine of $3,000 last September for submitting false data, while 52-year-old Nancy Buhrmann, a project manager for a Youth Research contractor, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and two years supervised release for destroying documents in connection with a federal grand jury investigation of the fraud.