Florida Corporation Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud Related to Falsified Water Testing
Dothan, Ala. – Last Thursday, June 8, 2017, Roberson Excavation, Inc. (Roberson Excavation), a company headquartered in Milton, Florida, pled guilty to committing wire fraud, announced Acting United States Attorney A. Clark Morris. The conviction stemmed from a company employee falsifying water samples during the installation of new water lines in Dale County, Alabama. That employee, Darin Lewis, 46, of Crestview, Florida, previously pled guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud.
The company initially proceeded to trial but changed its plea before it concluded. According to the trial evidence, in 2014, the Dale County Water Authority hired Roberson Excavation to install new water lines in the Marley Mill area of Dale County. Roberson Excavation was supposed to complete the project by November of 2014, however it failed to do so. As a result, the company began paying penalties of $500 for each day the project went incomplete. In January of 2015, Roberson Excavation hired Lewis to serve as the project’s foreman. In an effort to speed along the completion of the project, Lewis devised a scheme to falsify the bacteriological testing required to place the new water lines into service.
Specifically, on February 17, 2015, Lewis, acting on behalf of Roberson Excavation, submitted to a laboratory water from a portion of the new lines that had already been tested and shown to be clear of bacteria. When he did so, Lewis falsely claimed that he had drawn the water from an untested portion of the line. As a result of Lewis’s actions, Roberson Excavation was able to place into service water lines that had never been properly tested for harmful bacteria.
“Roberson Excavation clearly placed profit over the well-being of an entire community,” stated Acting United States Attorney Morris. “We are thankful that no one became sick as a result of this unlawful corner-cutting and the responsible parties deserve to be held accountable for their potentially dangerous actions. Access to clean drinking water is essential for our daily living—my office, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency— will work diligently to ensure that the residents of our district are not deprived of such a basic necessity.”
"The falsification of laboratory data, which was funded by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) state revolving funds, is completely unacceptable," said Sean Earle, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office, EPA, Office of Inspector General. "This guilty plea by Roberson Excavation, Inc. demonstrates the OIG's commitment to work successfully with our law enforcement partners."
On September 11, 2017, United States District Judge Carlos E. Mendoza will sentence Roberson Excavation and Lewis. Roberson Excavation faces a maximum fine of $250,000.00. Lewis faces a sentence of up to five years in prison. Additionally, as restitution, Roberson Excavation has agreed to release to the Dale County Water Authority up to $154,000 in money that Roberson Excavation had previously claimed.
This case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigations Division and Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and R. Rand Neeley are prosecuting the case.