Two more former Hanford tank farm employees have admitted to falsifying timecards to show more overtime than they actually worked.
That brings the total of former tank farm workers pleading guilty to timecard fraud to four.
Most recently, Lee Roberts and Joel Glen Radford pleaded guilty in Eastern Washington District U.S. Court to conspiracy to defraud the government. Their wages were paid with money from the Department of Energy.
A judge could require them to return the excess pay and sentence them to prison.
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During the years that CH2M Hill Hanford Group had the tank farm contract, it was accepted practice by employees working the 4:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. shift to leave when the work justifying overtime was completed but claim the full eight-hour shift on their timecards, according to court documents. CH2M Hill's written policy required the actual time worked to be recorded.
The extra hours claimed were seen by employees as a perk for hourly workers, and supervisors approved the timecards knowing that fewer hours than claimed had been worked, according to court documents.
Roberts and Radford worked as radiological control technicians at the tank farms, where 56 million gallons of radioactive waste from the past weapons production of plutonium is stored in underground tanks. Radford also worked at times as a lead radiological control technician.
Roberts transferred to the tank farms in September 2007 to participate in the timecard scheme, according to his plea agreement. On average, he would leave work at 9 p.m. on a swing shift, according to the document. He worked for CH2M Hill until October 2008.
The Eastern Washington District U.S. Attorney's Office believes he was paid at least $32,166 for overtime hours he falsely claimed, based on fully burdened costs to the government.
As part of the plea deal, Roberts agreed not to appeal if a judge sentences him to not more than one year in prison, not more than two years on probation and a fine of not more than $32,166.
The federal government also agreed to request a sentence more lenient than the legal minimum if Roberts continues to provide assistance in timecard fraud cases.
Radford worked for CH2M Hill at the tank farms from January 2004 to October 2008, and the U.S. Attorney's Office believes he was paid at least $165,744 for overtime hours falsely claimed based on fully burdened costs.
Radford agreed not to appeal if a judge sentences him to not more than 18 months in prison, not more than two years of probation and a fine of not more than $165,744.
As in Roberts' case, the federal government agreed to request a sentence more lenient than the legal minimum if Radford continues to provide assistance in timecard fraud cases.
Legal documents stated the tasks that radiological control technicians might be assigned to on overtime swing shifts included routine monitoring of certain areas for radiation levels whether or not work was being done there. Those shifts typically took less than eight hours of work.
Supervisors and lead radiological control technicians who would sign up workers for overtime would use phrases such as "you're on your own" and "self study," which was code for going home but claiming a full eight hours of work, according to court documents. The phrase "4 for 8" was used by workers to refer to the practice of leaving four hours early.
On tasks that were not routine, a pre-job briefing would be held. The person incharge might make comments on a Sunday job about completing the task in time to watch the end of a football game on TV, according to court documents.
Other times, workers would be told to do paperwork the rest of the night, even though paperwork would not require the remainder of the eight-hour shift, according to court documents.
In May 2008, the direct supervisor of Roberts and Radford received a tip that employees were not at the tank farms during an overtime shift. The supervisor went back to the tank farms and confirmed most workers had left.
However, instead of taking disciplinary action, the supervisor called employees who had left and told them to make sure their timecards reflected the actual time worked, according to court documents.
When Radford was contacted by law enforcement investigating fraud, he was told by fellow workers and a union steward that he should not directly implicate others and that those already suspected by law enforcement should take the full blame for the conspiracy, according to court documents.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; more Hanford news at hanfordnews.com