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Paramount-based Cal Tech Environmental Laboratories charged with criminal wrongdoing
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged Cal Tech Environmental Laboratories, LLC (CTEL) and its owner, Roobik Yaghoubi, with multiple criminal crimes after an investigation by the State Water Resources Control Board. The charges are as a result of the State Water Board’s ongoing investigation by its Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) and its Fraud, Waste and Abuse Prevention Unit.
CTEL and Yaghoubi have been charged regarding allegations of providing falsified data to the state as well as grand theft, generating false documents, and causing false documents to be filed with the state of California, all of which are felonies. The investigation led to the seizure of boxes of documents at the CTEL facility and the arrest of Yaghoubi on Thursday, Nov. 16 at his home. The lab’s accreditation had expired in September 2016 and it did not reapply. Yaghoubi is currently free on bail but, if convicted, could face up to five years in jail.
Yaghoubi is alleged to have altered results of environmental samples from underground storage tank facilities with petroleum leaks including evidence of altered data, failed quality control tests and gaps in the sample handling/chain of custody. Additionally, the investigation found improper reuse of sample containers and poor housekeeping of laboratory equipment.
Christine Sotelo, program chief for ELAP, issued a statement following the charges issued by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, saying, “Our program will aggressively investigate and prosecute those who commit fraud to the maximum extent of the law. This (case) should serve as a warning to other laboratories that the State Water Board is committed to ensuring that ELAP-accredited laboratories produce data of known and documented quality.”
Paramount-based CTEL had been accredited by ELAP to analyze water and soil samples using specific wastewater and hazardous waste analytical methods. The firm’s data has been used statewide by numerous clients including activated carbon suppliers, construction services, corrosion control services, environmental consultants, metal plating facilities. real estate firms and waste management services amongst others.
CTEL data has also been used by Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund (Cleanup Fund) sites which is financed by a 2-cent per gallon gasoline tax. It has been used to reimburse up to $1.5 million per site for clean-up of petroleum leaks at underground storage tank facilities statewide. The Cleanup Fund has reimbursed more than $3.6 billion since 1992 and includes $132 million in 2016. Approximately 8,700 Cleanup Fund sites have been remediated and closed since the program’s inception in 1989.
“Our evidence indicates that there are no valid laboratory reports coming out of CTEL, and the Cleanup Fund will be suspending payment of CTEL costs until there is a determination in this case,” said Cris Carrigan, director of the State Water Board’s Office of Enforcement.
CTEL has been in business since 1999. The case against CTEL and Yaghoubi was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. A copy of the complaint can be found on the State Water Board’s website at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/enforcement/orders_actions.shtml.