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Post date: February 22 2010

The New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo Announces County Waste To Pay Nearly $1 Million For Defrauding Town Of Colonie And Violating Environmental Waste Permit Regulations

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 22, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that Clifton Park-based County Waste and its President Scott Earl will pay nearly $1 million to the Town of Colonie, the state and a whistleblower to resolve allegations that the company understated the amount of waste it disposed of in the town and neglected to meet state environmental permitting requirements.

The settlement is the first disposition of New York State False Claims Act case that does not relate to Medicaid fraud. Attorney General Cuomo has long been a proponent of the Act, which among other things, provides necessary protections to whistleblowers who uncover fraud against government agencies.

An investigation by Attorney General Cuomo’s Office found that County Waste submitted vouchers underreporting the amount of waste delivered to the Town of Colonie’s landfill, located at 1319 Loudon Road in Cohoes, therefore undercutting the amount of money the company owed and paid the Town. County Waste also accepted potentially putrid municipal solid waste at its Transfer Station, located at 1927 Route 9 in Clifton Park, without first meeting certification requirements to accept such waste.

“County Waste undercut its financial obligations to the Town of Colonie and ignored its environmental protection obligations to the state and its residents,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Scams like this not only potentially impact the environment, but also taxpayers who have to bear the brunt of lost revenue. My office worked with the DEC and the town to ensure that Colonie was paid its due, and that the company was held accountable for its acceptance of non-permitted waste.”

Through the settlement with Attorney General Cuomo, County Waste and Scott Earl must pay a total of $986,186. Of that, $736,186 is being paid to resolve the submission of false weight slips to the Town of Colonie. They must also pay $250,000 in fines and penalties to the state for accepting waste without a proper permit. The whistleblower in the case will receive a total of $163,651 from the above amounts.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Law Enforcement and Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation began investigating County Waste in February 2007. In 2008 the case became a joint venture between the DEC and Attorney General Cuomo’s Office. In July 2008, a search warrant was executed at County Waste’s Clifton Park facility by members of both agencies. The Attorney General thanked the DEC for its participation in this matter.

DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said, “"DEC is committed to preserving the state's valuable natural resources and believes in holding environmental violators accountable for their actions. These permits are put into place to ensure the protection of our environment and of public health and New York businesses and municipalities are expected to follow permit requirements. The Department will continue to work with the Attorney General's office to pursue enforcement actions against those who violate environmental conservation laws.”

Town of Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan said, “We are grateful for the hard work and tremendous effort spent by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and his staff investigating the improper practices taking place at the Colonie Landfill and residents can be assured that in moving forward the Town of Colonie will not tolerate such practices in the future.”

The settlement with Attorney General Cuomo’s Office is the result of a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the New York State False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of governmental entities, including New York State and its local governments, for fraud they become aware of. The act protects whistleblowers from job retaliation and allows them to receive a portion of money recovered through the settlement.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Thomas Berkman under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Robin L. Baker and Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly and Deputy Chief Richard Ernst. The case was investigated by Michael Battisti from the Attorney General's Investigations Bureau under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator David Adams and Investigators Michael Dangler and Norman Channing from the DEC’s Schenectady (Region 4) Office under the supervision of Lieutenant Charles Honikel.