|TRENTON -- Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today that New-Jersey-based Accutest Laboratories will pay the State $2 million to resolve allegations that it deviated from both federal and state requirements for the extraction and testing of certain compounds, thereby submitting false claims to the State and its agencies for payment.
Based in Dayton, Middlesex County, Accutest provides an array of environmental testing services, including the testing of semi-volatile organic compounds. The State and its agencies – including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – have contracted with Accutest to perform a variety of environmental tests in its extraction laboratory.
The allegations central to today’s settlement flow from a federal qui tam or “whistleblower” lawsuit filed two years ago by a former Accutest employee. The lawsuit alleged that Accutest violated both the federal and New Jersey False Claims Acts by not following U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements in the extraction and testing of certain semi-volatile organic compounds.
Specifically, the Complaint alleged that some line-level technicians in Accutest’s extraction laboratories did not fully comply with Standard Operating Procedures or prescribed methods.
While the bulk of today’s settlement covers False Claims Act damages, a portion — approximately $920,000 — resolves alleged violations by Accutest of DEP Regulations Governing the Certification of Laboratories and Environmental Measurements. Under the agreement, Accutest admits no wrongdoing or liability.
The settlement announced today represents the largest non-Medicaid-related False Claims Act settlement entered into by the State since New Jersey’s False Claims Act took effect in March 2008.
“We are committed to ensuring that all vendors hired by the State deliver the goods or services promised under their contracts,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Any contractor doing business with the State must provide the services promised in all material respects, and must submit truthful claims for payment. Failure to do so is a violation of our False Claims Act.”
”This is an important settlement for the State,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. ”So much of DEP’s actions, decisions and regulatory authority are dependent upon the reliability of the data we receive and assurances that the correct methodologies are being used to gather it. Any deviation from these prescribed methods by any laboratory we work with will not be tolerated.”
Accutest is a member of a network of environmental testing laboratories across the nation, each with a common parent owner.
In April 2013, former employee Koroush Vaziri field a qui tam action in U.S. District Court in New Jersey alleging the failure of Accutest to follow proper protocols in both its extraction laboratory and its laboratory for the analysis of semi-volatile organic compounds.
The qui tam investigation was handled on behalf of the State by: Deputy Attorney General Janine Matton, Section Chief of the Division of Law’s Government & Healthcare Fraud Section; Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Kant of the Division of Law’s Government & Healthcare Fraud Section; and Assistant Attorney General Jessica Allen of the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group.
The DEP was represented by Deputy Attorney General Gary Wolf, Section Chief of the Division of Law’s Environmental Practice Group, Deputy Attorney General Andrew Reese of the Environmental Practice Group, and David Apy, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Environmental Practice Group.