GSA Engineering Settles With State Water Board Over Underground Storage Tank Fraud Allegations

By on April 17, 2019

GSA Engineering Inc. (GSA), an environmental consulting firm based in Pacific Palisade, has settled with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) over allegations that it submitted inflated invoices to the Underground Storage Tank (UST) Cleanup Fund and made kickback payments to a laboratory that conspired with GSA to falsify reports. GSA will pay a $90,000 penalty.

The SWRCB alleged that GSA made reimbursement requests misrepresentations that included hidden kickback payments in padded laboratory invoices.  Additionally, GSA directed the laboratory, Paramount-based Cal Tech Environmental Laboratories, LLC, to revise results to an expected value rather than resample and rerun questionable outcomes.

“Reimbursement of actual costs and submittal of reliable analytical data are essential to our Cleanup Fund program,” said Yvonne West, director of the Office of Enforcement. “The Office of Enforcement will vigorously investigate and prosecute unscrupulous firms and individuals who falsify or otherwise compromise documents and data for financial gains.”

Although the outcome of the state water board’s settlement with GSA was concluded in February the results were announced earlier this week. In addition to the $90,000 penalty, GSA and its principal, Daniel Louks, will be disqualified from participating in any State Water Board reimbursement program, including the Cleanup Fund. Roobik Yaghoubi, owner of Cal Tech Environmental Laboratories pled guilty to a felony false data charge in Los Angeles County (Case No. BA450757) in November 2017.

The UST Cleanup Fund provides a means for petroleum UST owners and operators to meet the federal and state requirements of maintaining financial responsibility to pay for any damages arising from their tank operations. The Fund assists a large number of small businesses and individuals by providing reimbursement for expenses associated with the cleanup of leaking USTs. Money is also provided to the Regional Water Boards and local regulatory agencies from the Fund to abate emergency situations or to cleanup abandoned sites that pose a threat to human health, safety, and the environment, from a UST petroleum release.

Suspected fraud, waste and/or abuse against the Cleanup Fund can be reported by email to reportfraud@waterboards.ca.gov, by toll-free message line (1-855-263-0863) or by mailing or faxing a Fraud Reporting Complaint Form to the State Water Board: State Water Board, Office of Enforcement, P. O. Box 100 Sacramento, CA 95812. To fax complaint, call: (916) 341-5896.

For more information on the SWRCB’s efforts to prevent, investigate and prosecute cases of fraud, waste and/or abuse against the Cleanup Fund, A fact sheet is available at: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/publications_forms/publications/factsheets/docs/2019_03_fraud_detterence_fact_sheet.pdf. Additionally, the SWRCB maintains an online list of disqualified businesses and persons banned from working for the State of California at: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/enforcement/fwa/dbp.html.