Hanford manager pleads guilty in timecard fraud scheme

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldMarch 20, 2013 

A Hanford worker with some management responsibilities has pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to violate the federal anti-kickback act in the Hanford timecard fraud scheme.

Eight workers previously pleaded guilty in the scheme, admitting they falsified their timecards to claim more hours of overtime than they actually worked.

Thomas Lee Huebner was a lead radiological control technician who offered overtime to workers in eight-hour blocks under upper management's direction, according to documents filed in Eastern Washington District U.S. Court.

He knew many workers routinely would stop work prior to the end of the overtime shift, leaving the job site early, but claiming pay for eight hours of overtime, according to court documents.

Huebner and others understood the practice as a way to provide additional incentives or perks for hourly workers to obtain their cooperation to work overtime or reward them for agreeing to work, according to court documents.

The timecard fraud occurred under former Department of Energy contractor CH2M Hill Hanford Group, which was in charge of Hanford's underground tanks holding radioactive waste until its contract expired in 2008. Huebner continues to work at Hanford in a nonmanagement position, according to current tanks contractor Washington River Protection Solutions.

Earlier this month, CH2M Hill agreed to pay $18.5 million to the federal government to settle civil and criminal allegations of defrauding taxpayers through widespread timecard fraud at Hanford. The settlement agreement listed 24 people, including managers and supervisors, whom the Department of Justice reserved the right to possibly hold liable. Huebner was on the list.

The Department of Energy reimbursed CH2M Hill for workers' wages, including overtime pay. CH2M Hill then made a profit by meeting goals, called performance-based incentives. It needed workers to volunteer for overtime to meet those goals, but workers would not volunteer unless they were offered work in eight-hour overtime shifts, according to court documents.

Huebner has agreed to pay a fine of $26,631 and not to appeal his conviction and sentence if a federal judge imposes a prison sentence of a year or less, according to a plea agreement. Conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback law carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Carl Oreskovich of Spokane, Huebner's attorney, did not respond to a message left by the Herald at his office.

--Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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