An Inglewood woman pleaded guilty this morning to three felony counts of mail fraud for orchestrating a three-year scheme in which she falsified hundreds of sampling and laboratory reports relating to environmental pollutants.
Regina Coleman, 41, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson.
From 1998 through 2001, Coleman, who falsely claimed to hold a Ph.D., operated a business known as Diversified Environmental Services, Inc. in Los Angeles. During this period, Coleman was paid by her victim-clients to obtain samples of industrial wastewaters they were discharging pursuant to permits into the sewer system maintained by the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts. Coleman thereafter provided laboratory results to the victim-clients, which they then included in environmental reports submitted to the Sanitation Districts.
The victim-clients were typically industrial and commercial businesses that generated contaminated wastewaters during various manufacturing processes. Under the terms of their permits, these businesses must routinely sample and test their wastewaters in order to ensure that hazardous pollutants are not unlawfully discharged into the sewer system, causing harm to public health, or damage or upsets at the sewage treatment plant, which could lead to the release of pollutants into the ocean and environment.
As part of her services, Coleman would travel to the victim-clients and purport to install automatic sampling devices, which are battery-operated machines designed to obtain samples of industrial wastewaters. In fact, during several surveillance operations conducted, investigating agents found that the sampling devices installed by defendant were inoperable, either because they had no batteries or contained no sampling bottles, or both.
After purporting to set up her equipment, Coleman would claim to her victim-clients that such samples were being sent to certified laboratories for analysis. No samples, however, were sent to certified laboratories for analysis. Rather, Coleman would use her computer to create false laboratory analytical reports on forms that fraudulently appeared to have been prepared by certified laboratories. Coleman would then mail the false laboratory analytical reports and billing invoices to her victim-clients knowing that such analyses were to be included in reports submitted to the Sanitation Districts.
As a result of this scheme, Coleman defrauded victim-clients out of more than $300,000. At this time, the nature and amount of any health risks or environmental harm caused by defendant’s activities is unknown.
The maximum sentence for each count of mail fraud is five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. Coleman, who will also be required to pay restitution to the victims of the fraud, is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23.
This case was investigated by members of the Los Angeles Regional Environmental Task Force, which includes the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General; and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts.