Environmental Contractor and Principals Arraigned on Charges of Larceny and False and Misleading Advertisements
CommTank was charged with Larceny by False Pretenses of a Person over 60 (2 counts), Larceny by False Pretenses (1 count), Attempted Larceny by False Pretenses (4 Counts), and False and Misleading Advertisement (2 counts). Company president Kevin Hoag, age 42, of Reading, was charged with Larceny by False Pretenses (1 count), Attempted Larceny by False Pretenses (2 counts), and False and Misleading Advertisements (2 counts). Company treasurer Christina Hoag, age 42, of Reading, was charged with Offering to Practice Engineering Without being Registered (2 counts) and Untrue and Misleading Advertisements (2 counts).
The charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (ECSF) into whether CommTank and Kevin Hoag used false pretenses to charge clients for excessive remediation work. The Strike Force received information that, in many instances, CommTank initially provided victims with preliminary cost estimates and then completed unnecessary work or steps that were misrepresented to the clients, which resulted in final costs that were tens of thousands of dollars over the initial estimate. The charges of False and Misleading Advertisements against all three defendants and the charges of offering to practice engineering without being registered against Christine Hoag stem from Ms. Hoag's identification on the company website as "Senior Engineer/DEP Liaison." The charges allege that Mrs. Hoag is not licensed as an engineer under Massachusetts law, nor does she hold an "Engineering in Training" certificate.
The investigation found that in many cases, the victims grew suspicious of CommTank's work and hired licensed site professionals (LSP) and other environmental consultants to review the sites. Further investigation showed that in many cases unnecessary and excessive work was being justified under false pretenses that the work was required by law.
Comm Tank, an oil tank removal and installation company, that also offers emergency spill response and site remediation services, has previously been the subject of administrative enforcement actions by MassDEP for failure to report a secondary fuel release at a remediation site, wetlands violations and violations of hazardous materials, waste management, and asbestos regulations.
This case was investigated by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (ECSF), an interagency unit that includes prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General's Office, and investigators and engineers from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The ECSF is overseen by Attorney General Martha Coakley, MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian A. Bowles. The ECSF investigates and prosecutes crimes that harm the state's water, air, land or that pose a significant threat to human health, safety, welfare or the environment.
A Middlesex Grand Jury returned the indictments against the defendants on November 19, 2009. The defendants were arraigned today in Middlesex Superior Court where they entered a plea of not guilty. The defendants are due back in court for a pre-trial conference on February 3, 2009.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of the Strike Force, with assistance from State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office. Jeanne Argento, Senior Counsel, developed the case for MassDEP and worked closely with prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office.
Members of the public who have information regarding a potential environmental crime are encouraged to contact the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Hotline at 1-888-VIOLATE (846-5283) or the Attorney General's Office at 617-727-2200.