From: Associated Press
Published September 28, 2004 12:00 AM

Former Federal Superfund Official Found Guilty in Fraud Case

LOS ANGELES — The former head of the federal Superfund environmental cleanup program has been found guilty of concocting a scheme to defraud a client who had hired her consulting company for an environmental cleanup project.


Rita Marie Lavelle, an assistant administrator in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Reagan administration, was convicted by a jury of wire fraud and making false statements to federal agents.


Lavelle, 57, afterward maintained her innocence outside court.


"I didn't do anything wrong. The only victim here is me," she said.


Virgil Cole, 67, a business associate involved in the case, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud.


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Lavelle, of Temecula, forged documents to make it appear that the owner of a company ordered by the EPA to clean up a contaminated site owed Cole's hazardous waste storage company more than $52,000, prosecutors said. Lavelle and Cole allegedly used the forged documents to obtain more than $36,000 of the non-existent debt.


With that money, Cole paid off a debt his firm owed separately to Lavelle, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns.


Lavelle faces up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1.25 million when she is sentenced in January.


Lavelle previously served time in prison after she was convicted of perjury for lying while testifying before Congress in 1982. She was fired two months after the testimony in a scandal that also forced the resignation of the environmental agency's chief.


Source: Associated Press


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