Corn Milling Company Pleads Guilty to Making False Statements in Safety and Environmental Records Following Mill Explosion
A Tennessee woman pleaded guilty today to fabricating discharge monitoring reports required under the Clean Water Act and submitting those fraudulent documents to state regulators in Tennessee and Mississippi.
According to court documents and information in the public record, DiAne Gordon, 61, of Memphis, was the co-owner and chief executive officer of Environmental Compliance and Testing (ECT). ECT held itself out to the public as a full-service environmental consulting firm and offered, among other things, sampling and testing of stormwater, process water and wastewater.
Customers, typically concrete companies, hired ECT to take samples and analyze them in a manner consistent with Clean Water Act permit requirements. Gordon claimed to gather and send the samples to a full-service environmental testing laboratory. The alleged results were memorialized in lab reports and chain of custody forms submitted to two state agencies, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), to satisfy permit requirements. In reality, Gordon fabricated the test results and related reports. She even forged documents from a reputable testing laboratory in furtherance of her crime. Gordon then billed her clients for the sampling and analysis. Law enforcement and regulators quickly determined that Gordon created and submitted, or caused to be submitted, at least 405 false lab reports and chain of custody forms from her company in Memphis to state regulators since 2017.
Pursuant to the terms of her plea agreement, Gordon will pay $201,388.88 in restitution to the victims of her crime.
“By fabricating these reports, Gordon betrayed her position of trust and violated her responsibility to provide information critical to evaluating water quality for residents in Tennessee and Mississippi,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This prosecution shows the value of state and federal partnerships in investigating and prosecuting fraud and upholding the nation’s environmental laws for the good of public health.”
“The Clean Water Act ensures that water quality is maintained throughout the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Murphy Jr. for the Western District of Tennessee. “Correct and accurate test results of discharges into rivers and stream and the honest reporting of those results to regulatory authorities are important parts of the Act’s regulatory framework. Without accurate test results and reporting of those results, the Clean Water Act will not work as Congress intended. Because honest reporting of this data is so important to the functioning of the Act, our office will vigorously prosecute individuals who falsely report test results.”
“The defendant’s job was to help her clients remain in compliance with the Clean Water Act but instead she chose to falsify the required analytical testing under the Act for financial gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Carfagno of the Environmental Protection Agency – Criminal Investigation Division’s (EPA-CID) Southeast Area Branch. “Today’s guilty plea illustrates the consequences of such criminal behavior and that EPA-CID will continue to vigorously investigate those that choose to violate our environmental laws.”
Gordon pleaded guilty to knowingly and willfully making and using false writings and documents in a matter within the jurisdiction of EPA. She is scheduled to be sentenced on March 22, 2022, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
EPA-CID is investigating the case. MDEQ and TDEC provided invaluable assistance to federal law enforcement officers.
Trial Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean DeCandia of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case.