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DEP contractor charged in false billing scheme

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal authorities have accused a Taylor County contractor in a scheme that bilked about $120,000 from the state Department of Environmental Protection in falsely billed work on abandoned coal mines.

A grand jury handed down a 10-count indictment Wednesday against Spencer Charles Wooddell, 45, of Flemington for allegedly manipulating his employees' time sheets and submitting false invoices to DEP on two contracting jobs.

The company he worked for, Cowgirl UP Inc., is also named in the indictment. The two defendants each face charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and nine counts of frauds and swindles.

In 2007 and again in 2011, DEP's office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation awarded contracts to Cowgirl UP Inc., after the company won out on bids for work on reclaimed mine land.

The DEP contracts capped the company's maximum expenditure for the first job at $25,000 and at $50,000 for the second. Once the work was completed, Wooddell, as field manager, was responsible for submitting invoices for the number of hours the company's employees worked and the amount of materials they used for the jobs.

Wooddell allegedly altered the employee's handwritten timesheets to make them reflect that more work was done on the mine reclamation site when the work was actually done on another project, the indictment alleges.

Once the time sheets were altered, Wooddell created an invoice and mailed it to DEP's regional office in Philippi, the indictment states.

 Wooddell also submitted false payrolls to DEP to cover up shifting labor costs and altered the invoices to show that the company used more materials on the projects.

It is not immediately clear from the indictment where the mine reclamation sites the company worked on were located.

Wooddell faces up to 200 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine if he is convicted on all counts. Cowgirl UP Inc., could be fined $5 million, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office.

Wooddell did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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