A former environmental laboratory analyst was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Pamela A. Barker to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine for falsifying laboratory test results.
Andrew K. Ecklund, age 58, of Tallmadge, Ohio, pleaded guilty in November of 2020 to nine counts of wire fraud stemming from a scheme to falsify laboratory analysis reports in order to improve work efficiency.
“Regulations are critically important to ensuring the health and safety of the environment and the general public,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan. “When any person subverts quality control procedures and then misrepresents test results identifying levels of hazardous substances, they will be held accountable for their actions.”
“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 sentencing demonstrates that analysts who cover up failed quality control measures and then misrepresent test results will be held accountable.”
“Today’s sentencing confirms that the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) is committed to protecting the integrity of the procurement process,” stated Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty, DCIS Northeast Field Office. “The DCIS will continue to work with its partner agencies to ensure that similar conduct is thwarted and that the U.S. Department of Defense is made whole.”
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 samples for the presence and concentration of hazardous substances and unacceptable levels of pollutants 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, Ecklund took steps to make it appear that certain samples had passed quality control testing measures, when in fact, they had failed. In particular, Ecklund failed to properly calibrate and tune the quality control instruments, which was the foundation of the quality control process. This failure resulted in unreliable measurements of pollutants and hazardous substances, and therefore invalidated the testing process.
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.
After the laboratory testing was complete, the company was required to submit an analysis report to their customers. Each report identified the laboratory analyst who conducted the testing and described any deviations from the testing methodology, including the quality control measures. Ecklund failed to disclose on these reports that the samples had failed the quality control measures and the actions he took to make it appear that they had passed.
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the Ohio EPA, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Army Criminal Investigation Command, Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, and U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division, all of which are members of the Northeast Ohio Environmental Crimes Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad J. Beeson.