ITS Laboratory Falsified Test Results at Thousands of Superfund Sites
Fair Use Statement
13 Indicted in Biggest Lab Fraud in American
By Cat Lazaroff
DALLAS, Texas, September 22, 2000 (ENS) - An environmental
laboratory falsified test results at thousands of Superfund sites
across the United States, the U.S. Department of Justice said
Thursday. Thirteen former employees of the now closed lab have
been indicted in what federal authorities are calling the biggest case
of laboratory fraud in the nation’s history.
The falsified tests could mean that some sites now listed as
uncontaminated could hold harmful chemicals and other pollutants,
federal officials said. But they emphasized that so far, none of the
sites they have retested have been found to contain health hazards.
Intertek Testing Services
Environmental Labs, Inc. (ITS),
was a full service environmental
testing laboratory that
analyzed samples of air, liquids
and soil as a subcontractor for federal, state and local government
agencies, as well as private environmental consulting and engineering
Between January 1994 and December 1997, ITS analyzed more than
59,000 separate environmental projects, involving as many as
250,000 separate tests. The company charged about $35.7 million for
Most of the test sites are in Texas, where the ITS lab was located,
or other Western states.
The Department of Justice, which investigated the firm on behalf of
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies,
charges that ITS falsified testing data to hide miscalibrated
instruments that did not meet quality control standards.
"These fraudulent acts were committed with the specific intent to
save time and money that would otherwise have been spent on
properly maintaining the testing equipment," or repeating failed tests,
the Justice Department said in a release.
ITS also boosted its business
by fraudulently producing what
appeared to be acceptable
environmental sample analysis data, the department charged. The
result: millions of dollars in taxpayer money paid for inadequate tests.
"Regulatory agencies and private companies must be able to rely on
analyses performed by independent testing laboratories," said Lois
Schiffer, assistant attorney general for the environment. "When a
laboratory fails to follow basic scientific protocol, this can undermine
the integrity of environmental protection efforts."
Each of the 13 former ITS employees is charged with helping to alter
data or present fraudulent reports between 1988 and 1997. The
defendants are charged with various counts of mail fraud, wire fraud
and presenting false claims. They face possible lengthy jail terms and
fines ranging from $1 million to $7.5 million.
Martin Dale Jeffus, a former ITS vice president and the defendant
facing the largest number of charges, could face a maximum term of
155 years in jail for 30 counts of fraud crimes.
Other ITS employees charged include managers, supervisors and lab
In a statement, London based ITS said
the tests were performed by a
subsidiary that is now out of business.
"While this employee conduct was
unacceptable, we want to emphasize
that the EPA has stated it concurs
with our findings that the tests were
not substantially in error and that
none of the tested sites has been
found to pose a risk to safety or
health," said Richard Nelson, chief
executive officer of ITS.
ITS officials said the company voluntarily disclosed to the EPA that
there were problems at the plant in Richardson, Texas, as far back as
At that time, ITS tried to win legal protection through the agency’s
voluntary disclosure program, but was turned down, the company
Paul Coggins, the U.S. attorney for
the Northern District of Texas who
will help prosecute the case, said
"none of the data coming out of this
Richardson lab can be relied on," as
tests were "falsified on a grand
"Too many employees and
ex-employees have told investigators
that the falsifications were routine
and commonplace. We almost
certainly have some property owners who don't even realize today
that this lab did the test," said Coggins.
"Those who would gamble with our environment will face the full force
of the law," Coggins said. "The most dangerous contaminant to our
environment is greed."
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