California Water Board Bars Sneaks That Overbilled

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – For the first time ever, the California water board has barred owners of an environmental cleanup company, after finding they overbilled the state for work at contaminated sites.
     Jordan-Botke Enterprises, also known as PW Environmental, pleaded no-contest to a felony charge of grand theft for false billing of cleanup costs submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund.
     The water board sued the company and its bosses, CEO William Richard Jordan, CFO Richard Edward Botke, and Secretary Kim Marie Jordan in February, in Ventura County Court., The water board sought to recover some of the nearly $17 million they were paid from the state’s underground storage tank cleanup fund.
     PW agreed to pay $19,000 in restitution as part of the Sept. 10 stipulated judgment.
     The civil settlement requires Botke, the Jordans and their company to pay $281,000 and be barred from cleanup fund sites, loan and grant sites, or any other programs governed by the water board.
     “This debarment is the first of its kind by the State Water Board,” said Cris Carrigan, director of its Office of Enforcement. “The continued efforts of the Cleanup Fund and the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Prevention unit are sending a strong message to environmental consultants. Fraud will not be tolerated; it will be pursued and prosecuted to the maximum extent allowed by law.”
     PW, originally named Pipe Ways, began as an agricultural piping company in 1979, working in farms around its headquarters in Santa Paula. PW began doing investigation and remediation in 1991 at contaminated underground storage tank sites that received reimbursement from the water board’s cleanup fund.
     PW has worked at 60 such sites in the counties of Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Bernardino, Orange, Ventura and Kern.
     On more than one occasion, PW billed for work it did not perform and equipment and materials it did not use, the water board said.
     Kim Jordan “created a second set of bookkeeping records wherein she re-created employee time records such that they corresponded with the falsely padded reimbursement requests,” the water board said in its civil complaint.
     William Jordan and Richard Botke converted Jordan-Botke Enterprises into a “vehicle for personal profit and gain,” through which they diverted reimbursement funds and assets to themselves, according to the water board.
     The water board discovered the overbilling after an audit revealed suspicious claims submitted to the cleanup fund.
     Under the civil settlement, which requires court approval, all work performed by PW after Oct. 31, 2014, whether or not it has been submitted to the cleanup fund, is deemed unreasonable and unnecessary. The work, therefore, is not eligible for reimbursement from the water board.
     Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in 2014 placing new safeguards to fight fraud against the cleanup fund. It gives the water board authority to bar claimants and consultants from participating in the cleanup fund, impose penalties of up to $500,000 per violation, and grants administrative authority to prosecute cases.
     PW did not respond to a request for comment.

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