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The owner and sole operator of an environmental laboratory was found guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi of all counts of a federal indictment charging falsification of records and obstructing a federal criminal investigation, announced Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Gregory K. Davis.
Tennie White, owner, operator and manager of Mississippi Environmental Analytical Laboratories Inc., was charged in a three-count felony indictment with two false statements counts and one count of obstructing proceedings. The jury found the White guilty of all counts after an eight day trial before U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate at the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss.
“Our environmental regulatory system depends on the self-reporting of accurate information, including what is being released into the environment. When laboratories who are paid to test and report samples of what is being discharged into our nation’s waters fabricate results and lie to investigators, they will be prosecuted,” said U.S. Attorney Davis.
“Americans expect their public water supply to be clean and safe to use,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Mississippi. “In order to safeguard public health it is absolutely essential that governments receive accurate test results and measurements. Violators who submit false reports undermine our efforts to protect the public and the environment. Today’s guilty verdict by a jury demonstrates that the American people will not tolerate laboratories and their managers who place the public at risk by knowingly falsifying test results.”
As describe in the indictment, White was hired to perform laboratory testing of a manufacturer’s industrial process waste water samples and then to use those results to complete monthly discharge monitoring reports for submission to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The indictment alleged that from October to December 2008 White created three discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) that falsely represented that laboratory testing had been performed on samples when, in fact, such testing had not been done. The indictment further alleged that White created a fictitious laboratory report and presented it to her client for use in preparing another DMR for January 2009. The indictment also alleged that White made false statements to a federal agent during a subsequent criminal investigation.
Sentencing has been scheduled for Aug. 8, 2013 in federal court in Jackson. For the false statements charges, the defendant is facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count. The obstructing proceedings charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Richard J. Powers of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gaines Cleveland of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.