Head of private water-sampling company going to prison for fraud in North Carolina

November 8, 2012 | Department Of Agriculture, Rural, USDA

For over five years the defendant provided false water sampling to customers

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – On Tuesday, October 23, 2012, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger sentenced Linda Knox, 50, of Marshall, N.C., to 33 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release for committing mail fraud, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Judge Reidinger also ordered Knox to pay $22,056 as restitution to victims.

U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), Atlanta Area Office, and Greg McLeod, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI).

According to filed court documents and related proceedings, Knox is the owner and manager of “If It’s Water & More,” a company that, among other things, samples and analyzes water systems across Western North Carolina. Knox’s client list included public parks, churches, restaurants, campgrounds, mobile home parks, apartment buildings, a child development center, a medical center, a community club, a school, and a fire department, among others. From 2005 through 2010, Knox, through her company, claimed to have provided water sampling services to her clients, when in fact, she did not. According to court records, for almost five years Knox either failed to properly conduct or did not conduct at all required tests related to the safety of her customers’ water samples. In fact, Knox sometimes used tap water instead of the actual source’s water samples, court records show. For example, a private lab that was sub-contracted to test Knox’s company’s 2007 end-of-year samples for more than 100 customers indicated that all of the water samples were fake. Knox pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in December 2010.

“Customers relied on Knox to provide accurate testing of their water supply,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “Knox’s actions put more than 100 water sources at risk of becoming unsafe for drinking, potentially risking the health of hundreds or thousands of individuals. I want to commend the EPA and SBI for putting a stop to this wide threat to public health.”

“Violators who submit false information undermine the government’s efforts to protect the public and the environment,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in North Carolina. “In order to safeguard public health, it is absolutely essential that companies and their senior managers comply with environmental regulations. The defendant in this case knowingly falsified drinking water samples, giving inspectors serious concerns over the health of the community water systems involved. These illegal actions cannot and will not be tolerated.”

NC SBI Director Greg McLeod stated, “Falsifying water quality tests is against the law and potentially dangerous for all those who rely upon the safety of clean drinking water. Our SBI agents will keep working with our partners to enforce the law and hold violators accountable.”

Knox is required to self-report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, upon designation of a federal facility. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the SBI’s Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit, and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources Public Water Supply Section. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Steven R. Kaufman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.