On July 6, 2009, Robert P. Griffiths, a former executive at Bennett Environmental Inc (“BEI”), a Canadian company that provides soil treatment, pled guilty to charges for paying kickbacks and committing fraud at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Superfund-site Federal Creosote in New Jersey. Mr. Griffiths also pled guilty to money laundering charges and obstruction of an impeding proceeding by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The cleanup of the Federal Creosote site, funded by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, was contracted out to private companies that oversaw the removal, treatment and disposal of contaminated soil, as well as other operations at the site. The prime contractor of the site sub-contracted these services to BEI and its co-conspirators.
Mr. Griffiths and his co-conspirators were given bid prices so BEI could bid the highest price and be awarded the sub-contract at the Federal Creosote site. On one occasion, Griffiths and his co-conspirators received $1.3 million in kickbacks from an inflated bid. Kickbacks usually took the form of wired transfers, lavish cruises, various entertainment tickets, pharmaceuticals and home entertainment electronics. In all, Mr. Griffiths and his co-conspirators were awarded $43 million in fraudulent sub-contracts. The conspiracy took place between December 2001 and August 2004.
Furthermore, Mr. Griffiths admitted in being involved in an international money-laundering scheme with another co-conspirator. From February 2003 to September 2004, Griffiths and his co-conspirator personally received $1 million in kickbacks through his shell company and laundered over $200,000 of the kickbacks to the co-conspirator’s bank account in New Jersey. Mr. Griffiths also pled guilty to a third charge of impeding an official proceeding of the SEC by providing false statements regarding his role in the fraudulent scheme.
On June 25, 2009, Frederick Landgraber, a co-owner of a New Jersey landscaping company, plead guilty to his role in a fraud conspiracy at Federal Creosote site. On February 26, 2009, Christopher Tranchina, an employee of a company temporarily responsible for electrical utilities, pled guilty to defrauding the EPA at that site. He is schedule for sentencing on July 13, 2009. On December 18, 2008, Zul Tejpar, a former employee at Bennett Environmental Industries pled guilty for defrauding the EPA at Federal Creosote site and agreed to pay a criminal fine of $1 million and help in the ongoing investigation. As a part of the same investigation, on July 31, 2008, Mr. Tejpar’s former employer, BEI, pled guilty and agreed to pay $1 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to defraud the EPA at designated Superfund site, Federal Creosote in Manville, NJ. On June 23, 2008, JMJ Environmental Inc., a New Jersey wastewater treatment supply company, and its executives pled guilty to defraud the EPA at two New Jersey Superfund sites, including the Federal Creosote site.