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Conviction in fraudulent funds for aquaponic project

A 54-year-old man from Danville has been sentenced to three years of federal probation, including 10 months on home detention, and ordered to pay $94,197.93 in restitution for theft from programs receiving federal funds. During his time as a regional planner and later an inspector for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the man assisted another man and his company in applying for a DEP Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) sub-grant.

The other man and his company proposed to construct and operate an aquaponics facility that would produce commercial quantities of vegetables and fruits at a project site near Madison. The convicted man collected water samples, obtained public support, boosted the project internally at DEP, provided his opinion and suggestions for improving the sub-grant application, and continuously monitored the application’s status.

The man admitted to fraudulently obtaining $94,197.93 of federal abandoned mine land (AML) remediation sub-grant funds: He admitted that the $94,197.34 originated from the aquaponics project’s sub-grant reimbursements from the DEP and were ultimately diverted to him. He set up a shell limited liability company to receive a portion of the sub-grant award funds and created fraudulent invoices to conceal the nature of the payments.

He further admitted that he had no right to receive those funds and fraudulently converted them to his own use. He also admitted to taking steps to hide, conceal and cover up his activity and the nature and scope of his dealings. Those steps included failing to list his interest in Wanaque when he signed the federal OSMRE State Employee Statement of Employment and Financial Interest form on February 20, 2019.

The DEP, funded by the United States Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), receives grant funding for the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization program. The competitive process selects projects for AML sub-grant awards, aiming to accelerate the remediation of eligible sites for economic revitalization and community development purposes. West Virginia has received $181 million in AMLER block grant funds since 2016.


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