War argument used in Hanford timecard case

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldNovember 19, 2013 

Because the nation is at war, the Department of Justice is allowed to continue prosecution of alleged timecard fraud that is more than five years old at the time an indictment was filed in federal court against 10 CH2M Hill Hanford Group upper managers and supervisors.

Two of the defendants had asked that four of 34 counts related to alleged timecard fraud be dismissed because they were based on invoices from CH2M Hill to the Department of Energy in January and February 2008 and corporate bonuses paid in January 2008. U.S. Judge Ed Shea heard arguments on that and other motions Monday and Tuesday in Richland.

The indictment was filed March 20, 2013, five years and one to two months later, which normally would have exceeded the five-year statute of limitations.

But Tyler Tornabene, the lead attorney for the prosecution, argued that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act suspends the statute of limitations during wartime in cases accusing monetary fraud against the United States. During times of war the government loses resources, such as law enforcement officers who may be serving in the National Guard, Tornabene said. The war in Afghanistan continues.

The World War II-era law was seldom used in the last decade until it was invoked by the Department of Justice 12 times between 2008 and 2012, as many times as in the previous 47 years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Shea ruled that the law applies and prosecution of two counts of submission of false claims related to the contractor invoices and two counts of violation of anti-kickback acts related to the bonuses will proceed.

Defendants are accused of enabling timecard fraud as employees of Hanford's former tank farms contractor, CH2M Hill Hanford Group. The prosecution has argued that workers who volunteered for overtime were allowed to claim a full shift of eight hours of overtime pay even though often fewer hours were worked.

Upper managers Patrick Bradley Brannan, Terrence Hissong and Ryan Dodd are accused of concealing the timecard scheme and ensuring that deadlines were met to allow the former contractor to receive incentive payments from DOE. Meeting the deadlines allowed Dodd and Hissong to receive corporate bonuses, according to the prosecution.

Daniel Niebuhr, Kenneth Baird, James Michael Hay, Perry Mark Howard and Mark Norris Johnson supervised hourly workers and had a role in obtaining authorized overtime from upper managers for hourly workers, according to the prosecution.

Glenda Davis and Stephanie Livesey had a role in approving timecards of radiological control technicians, including nine hourly workers who have pleaded guilty, according to the prosecution.

Trial is scheduled for March 10 for all 10 defendants, a year after the indictment was issued, but most have asked for the trial to be postponed.

Hay wants the trial to proceed as scheduled in March.

"The core issues of the case are not complex: The defendants are charged with knowingly aiding Hanford workers in claiming more hours than they actually worked, and in some cases, claiming more hours for themselves than they worked," his attorney, Peter Schweda, said in a court document.

The government's case, as outlined in the indictment is based on alleged vague statements and "unwritten and coded communications," he said.

But other attorneys said they need more time to prepare for trial because of the large amount of documents to review. That includes an estimated 1 million pages of documents newly available that are related to a settlement reached by CH2M Hill in March. CH2M Hill agreed to pay $18.5 million to settle civil and criminal allegations of defrauding taxpayers through widespread timecard fraud at Hanford.

Shea discussed a possible new trial date of Sept. 3 with the case going to a jury no later than Dec. 11, but has not made a ruling.

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

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