By OGJ editors
WASHINGTON, DC, July 30 -- Austin Tex.-based Tanknology-NDE International Inc. will pay a $2 million fine and serve 5 years probation for giving fraudulent underground storage tank (UST) tests to federal environmental regulators, the US Department of Justice and the US Environmental Protection Agency said July 24.
Tanknology agreed to plead guilty to 10 felony counts of presenting false claims and making false statements to federal agencies.
Tanknology admitted in a plea agreement that from January 1997 to December 1999, Tanknology testers performed false tests at federal facilities across the country. Tanknology is the largest UST testing company in the US, with four regional offices and six field offices located across the country
"Tanknology was prosecuted and has been held responsible for fraudulent practices that could cause a risk of significant environmental harm at federal facilities. It is essential that federal owners and operators of underground storage tanks be assured that the company providing these important testing services is doing so honestly and accurately," said Tom Sansonetti, assistant attorney general of DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute such crimes to ensure that the environment is protected."
DOJ said the pleas came from an extensive investigation carried out by several federal criminal investigative agencies, in which agents observed Tanknology testers at federal facilities across the country. The false tests ranged from failing to follow required test protocols to "drive-by" tests, where a Tanknology tester was videotaped driving up to a federal facility, driving away after a few minutes, and then submitting false data.
In agreeing to plead guilty, Tanknology admitted that the investigation of the corporation produced evidence of a number of improper or fraudulent practices carried out by employees. These included:
-- Tanknology regional managers set schedules for testers that caused some testers to be unable to always conduct valid tests and stay on schedule.
-- A corporate bonus system rewarded testers in part for the number of tests they performed.
-- Testers knowingly reported test results when, in fact, no tests had been performed.
-- Quality assurance personnel complained to corporate and regional personnel that testers were inadequately trained and were performing invalid tests, but the corporation failed to implement quality assurance that could have prevented invalid testing practices by testers.