OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A Guthrie environmental company agreed to pay as much as $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit accusing the company of defrauding the government on contracts to clean up illegal methamphetamine labs.
The allegations against the company initially surfaced after a former employee filed a whistle-blower lawsuit.
Environmental Management Inc. and owner Terry D. Bobo did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
They agreed to pay $850,000 to the federal government and former employee David Strozdas. An attorney for Bobo and his company said Friday it was cheaper to settle than take the case to trial.
``We consider it to be a victory,'' attorney Jim Dowell said.
The company and its subcontractors earned more than $35 million between 1997 and 2002 from a contract with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. They cleaned up more than 13,000 meth labs in that time.
Strozdas accused the company of overbilling DEA when it cleaned up meth labs under that contract. Strozdas also alleged the company improperly disposed of chemicals like lithium, Freon and anhydrous ammonia.
The whistle-blower lawsuit was filed in August 2004. The federal government intervened after investigating Strozdas' claims. Dowell said the government suggested a settlement conference.
A deal was worked out Jan. 30. It was approved this week by U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton.
Bobo and his company will pay $700,000 immediately under the terms of the settlement.
They must pay an additional $200,000 if the final $150,000 of the settlement is not paid by Feb. 1.
The settlement will be shared by Strozdas and the government, although details of the split were not made public. Strozdas is entitled to as much as 25% of the settlement as a whistleblower, but his attorney declined to divulge how much he will receive.