U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman announced today that Andrew K. Ecklund, age 57, of Tallmadge, entered a plea of guilty to an indictment charging him with nine counts of wire fraud.
Joining U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman in the announcement were Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Ohio; Patrick J. Hegarty, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DCIS Northeast Field Office; Special Agent in Charge L. Scott Moreland of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s (Army CID) Mid-Atlantic Fraud Field Office and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
According to court documents, Ecklund was previously employed as a laboratory analyst with an environmental testing company operating in Northeast Ohio. The company was paid to analyze environmental samples for organizations and government agencies across the United States and to do so according to U.S. EPA regulations. As a laboratory analyst, Ecklund was responsible for testing the samples for the presence and concentration of hazardous substances using industry standards, methodology and quality control measures.
On nine separate occasions between on or about January 3, 2012, and on or about July 25, 2015, when conducting quality control testing measures, Ecklund took steps to make it appear that the samples had passed the testing measures, when in fact, they had failed. In particular, Ecklund manipulated the tune and calibration portions of the quality control process and, in doing so, invalidated the sample analysis. By disguising these invalid tests and making them appear valid, Ecklund was able to increase his productivity by avoiding having to shut down his instruments for repair and not retesting the samples, as required by EPA regulations. As a result of his actions, the test results provided by the company to their customers were invalid.
“Deliberately falsifying the test results of a process that is in place to keep people safe and healthy shows a reckless disregard for the well-being of your fellow man,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “We are grateful for the actions of our partner agencies in this investigation in order to catch this behavior and put an end to it.”
“Both environmental regulators and the regulated community rely on accurate laboratory results to make important decisions on the protection of human health and the environment,” said Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Lynn of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Ohio. “Quality control is one of the most important aspects of sample analysis. This plea demonstrates that analysts who cover up failed quality control measures and then misrepresent test results will be held accountable.”
“The integrity of the DoD procurement process is a top priority for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS),” stated Acting Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty, DCIS Northeast Field Office. “The defendant’s guilty plea is the result of a joint investigative effort and demonstrates the DCIS’ commitment to work with the USAO-NDO, the EPA-CID and the Army CID, to ensure that claims submitted to the U.S. Department of Defense for the testing of environmental samples are valid and supported by accurate documentation.”
After the laboratory testing was complete, the company was required to submit an analysis report to its customers detailing the results. Each report identified the laboratory analyst who conducted the testing and described any deviations from the testing methodology, including the quality control measures. On his analysis reports, Ecklund failed to disclose that the samples had not passed the quality control measures and the actions he took to make it appear that they had passed.
Ecklund is scheduled to be sentenced on March 8, 2021 before U.S. District Court Judge Pamela A. Barker.
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the U.S. EPA, Army Criminal Investigation Division to Army Criminal Investigation Command Major Procurement Fraud Unit, Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Ohio EPA and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad J. Beeson.