No jail time ordered in Hanford timecard fraud cases

None of the five defendants sentenced Thursday in federal court on charges related to timecard fraud at the Hanford nuclear reservation will be jailed or serve home detention.

Judge Lonny Suko handed down lighter sentences for all defendants than prosecutors had requested in court documents.

For two of the defendants, Suko cut in half the fines proposed by the Department of Justice.

Rhonda Stamper, Douglas Mallory, Christian Careaga and Carl Schroeder were radiological control technicians for former Hanford tank farm contractor CH2M Hill Hanford Group.

The fifth defendant sentenced Thursday, Thomas Huebner, sometimes also served as a lead radiological control technician for the former contractor.

All admitted to lying on their timecards about the hours they worked to receive extra overtime pay, according to the prosecution.

Stamper will be required to pay a fine of $119,494, based on the prosecution’s estimate of pay and benefits she received for overtime she did not work, plus any other costs to the federal government for those hours.

However, she was not sentenced to six months home detention and eight days of confinement as the prosecution had requested in court documents.

Huebner was fined $26,631. Prosecutors had asked for four months home detention or eight days of confinement.

Mallory was fined $56,141 but not required to serve four months home detention.

Careaga had his proposed fine of $90,000 lowered to $45,000. And Schroeder was fined $25,000, instead of the requested $50,000.

All five of the defendants were sentenced to two years probation in addition to fines.

The prosecution had not planned to request home detention or jail for them. All five provided substantial assistance to the investigation after pleading guilty, but Careaga and Schroeder’s cooperation was called outstanding by the prosecution.

Both consented to a voluntary interview when first contacted by the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General and readily admitted their role in the timecard fraud conspiracy, according to court documents. Their cooperation continued with information that was neither held back nor exaggerated.

CH2M Hill agreed to pay $18.5 million to the federal government in 2013 to settle civil and criminal allegations of defrauding taxpayers through widespread timecard fraud at Hanford when it held the DOE tank farm contract at Hanford from fall 1999 to fall 2008.

Overtime was called out in eight-hour shifts under the former contractor to induce workers to agree to take the shifts.

They would be paid time and a half for the first four hours of the shifts and double time on the second four hours, plus double time on Sundays.

When the work was completed, sometimes hours early, workers would go home but claim full eight-hour shifts on their timecards, according to court documents.

Because of the CH2M Hill payment, the five defendants sentenced Thursday were required to pay fines rather than restitution.

Just one Hanford worker, Daniel Niebuhr, who worked as a supervisor at the tank farms under the former contractor, had been sentenced earlier on a charge related to enabling timecard fraud.

He declined to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office after he changed his plea to guilty days before his trial.

He was sentenced by Judge Edward Shea to 30 days confinement and fined $34,146.

Niebuhr would have gone to trial with four other supervisors, all of whom were acquitted.

Four other top managers or supervisors who were awaiting trial then had charges against them dropped in exchange for agreeing to pay civil settlements.

Five more defendants who pleaded guilty to charges related to timecard fraud are expected to be sentenced this spring.