McDowell County Woman Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Filing Fraudulent Water Quality Reports
CHARLESTON, WV—United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced that Bonita Witt-Hird, 60, of Thorpe (McDowell County) West Virginia, pled guilty today in federal court in Charleston to filing fraudulent water quality reports.
Witt-Hird was formerly employed as the office manager for Richmorr Associates, Inc., an environmental engineering firm in Elkview, West Virginia. Richmorr provides water sampling services to wastewater treatment plants throughout West Virginia. Wastewater plants are required by state and federal law to sample wastewater discharges. The results are submitted to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP). WVDEP reviews the results to ensure compliance with water quality standards. In the event of non-compliance, WVDEP may levy fines or, in extreme cases, shut down the wastewater treatment plant.
From April of 2012 to June of 2013, Witt-Hird filed approximately 80 false reports with the WVDEP. These false reports made it appear that current water quality sampling had been performed for the wastewater plants when, in fact, the test results had been copied from previous years.
Witt-Hird previously plead guilty on September 26, 2013 to obstructing an IRS investigation and is currently imprisoned on the sentence imposed for that offense. For the fraudulent water quality report offense, Witt-Hird faces a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment, and a fine of up to $250,000. She is scheduled to be sentenced on January 5, 2015.
The investigation was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, the WVDEP and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes is in charge of the prosecution.