Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - A local laboratory is facing a $150,000 fine after thousands of water and soil tests were falsified for years, according to the US Attorney's Office.
Upstate Laboratories in East Syracuse pleaded guilty to one count of felony mail fraud in federal court.
The false reports were sent to 31 clients, including several municipalities in Central New York.
When federal agents searched Upstate Laboratories in 2010, the owner accused a disgruntled former employee of trying to discredit his company. That tip raised a red flag.
"There were a lot of victims, there were a lot of samples that were falsified over a period of time and it is inexcusable and that is why they've been subject to criminal prosecution," said Assistant US Attorney Craig Benedict.
Prosecutors say the lab supplied fraudulent reports on more than 3,300 water and soil samples between 2008 and 2010.
Tests are considered more reliable when they're done quickly because chemicals can break down over time. Benedict says the company was taking in more orders than it could handle and held them too long before testing.
“They were fraudulently backdating when the analysis was performed to make it appear that everything had performed properly when it hadn't been,” explained Benedict.
Clients identified by the US Attorney's Office, include:
- The Madison County Department of Solid Waste
- The Oneida - Herkimer Solid Waste Authority
- The Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District
- The Town of Camillus
- The Oswego County Department of Health
- The Oswego County Department of Solid Waste
Newschannel 9 submitted a request to the Environmental Protection Agency to find out exactly what was being tested by the defrauded clients. Those results have not been supplied yet.
Benedict says a common test involved finding out if streams were contaminated by leaching from nearby landfills.
“There is no reason to do analysis unless you're concerned about some possible adverse outcome. So, if you are doing a public water supply, of course you want to make sure that the drinking water is safe to be consumed,” Benedict said.
According to Benedict, it's likely too late to know if false reports led to health problems in the past. He's hoping the case against Upstate Laboratories will deter future violations.
"Well, it is very simple. They've had their license pulled. They are out of business,” Benedict said.
According to the plea agreement, the lab is placed on five years probation. If the company resumes operation, it would be required to develop an "Environmental Compliance Plan". The $150,000 could be suspended with restitution to affected clients.
Since the case is against United Laboratories, Inc., no individual is facing charges. When NewsChannel 9 attempted to reach owner Tony Scala, we were told, "We don't have any comment."
The following list of clients affected by the falsified results was supplied by the US Attorney's Office:
1. Village of Moravia, NY
2. Two Guys From Italy Pizza Restaurant, West Monroe, NY
3. Town of Camillus, NY
4. Steuben County, NY - Division of Solid Waste
5. Oswego County, NY - Department of Health
6. Oswego County, NY - Department of Solid Waste
7. Cortland County, NY - Soil and Water Conservation District
8. Liquid Products, LLC, Waterloo, NY
9. Hanson Aggregates New York, LLC, Poland, NY
10. Casella Waste Systems via On-Site Technical Services, Wellsville, NY
11. A & P Water Testing, Morrisville, NY
12. Wolcott Landfill, Wolcott, NY
13. New York State Department of Transportation - Region 7
14. Hannibal Hills Trailer Park, Hannibal, NY
15. Ontario County, NY - Recycling and Landfill Management
16. Fulton County, NY - Department of Solid Waste
17. Barton and Loguidice, Liverpool, NY
18. Oswego Heat Treating, Inc - Oswego, NY
19. Town of Oswego, Oswego, NY
20. Agro-Farm, Inc, Norwich, NY
21. Tri-Boro Municipal Authority, Susquehanna, PA
22. Village of Endicott, NY - Waste Water Treatment Plant
23. Sullivan County, NY - Department of Public Works
24. Fagan Engineers via Franklin County, NY
25. Applied Testing and Geosciences, Bridgeport, PA
26. City of Tonawanda, NY
27. Oneida - Herkimer Solid Waste Authority, Utica, NY
28. Town of Lumberland, NY
29. Madison County, NY - Department of Solid Waste
30. Kerry Bio-Science, Rochester, MN
31. Ameresco, Inc, Various locations throughout United States