FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENRD
MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2000(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
TECHNICIANS ADMIT CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD UNDERGROUND
STORAGE TANK OWNERS Scheme Cheated Hundreds In Georgia Virginia and the Carolinas
WASHINGTON - Two South Carolina men have plead guilty to an illegal scheme that lead hundreds of people to incorrectly believe their underground storage tanks had been tested properly for leaks of petroleum and other contaminants.
Mark Scruggs plead guilty today in U.S. District Court in Greenville, S.C., to a felony count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Chris Fletcher, his partner in the scheme, plead guilty to the same charge on April 4, 2000.
Scruggs and Fletcher were technicians for Carolina Testing Inc., a South Carolina contractor that tested underground storage tanks at gas stations, and several federal facilities, including the Strom Thurmond Federal Building in Columbia. Federal law requires that tank owners periodically test their equipment to ensure they are not leaking pollution into soil or groundwater.
Scruggs and Fletcher admitted that from 1995 through 1997, they falsified more than 1,500 tests for 400 underground storage tank owners and operators in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. They carried out their scheme by fabricating computer graphs and data and submitting this material to tank operators with letters asserting the tanks were properly tested.
They then secured payments from customers after mailing the fraudulent documents. Court records show that Scruggs and Fletcher caused tank operators to pay Carolina Testing at least $400,000 for the fraudulent tests.
"Underground storage tank owners and operators rely on contractors to ensure that their tanks are safe and are not leaking," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Fraudulent practices like these will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
The case was prosecuted by Daniel W. Dooher, Trial Attorney, Environmental Crimes Section, Department of Justice, and Robert Jendron, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of South Carolina. The case was investigated by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.