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State Accuses Owners of Santa Barbara Environmental Firm of Fraud, Overbilling

Kurt and Julie Hayden of Hayden Environmental Inc. have been reimbursed more than $12.9 million from the Cleanup Fund

The owners of a Santa Barbara-based environmental consulting firm are facing charges of grand theft after the California Attorney General’s Office accused them of overbilling the State Water Resources Control Board’s Cleanup Fund for reimbursements.

Kurt and Julie Hayden are accused of conspiracy to commit a crime and grand theft from the state, both felonies, through their company Hayden Environmental Inc., according to the criminal complaint. They’re accused of taking, damaging or destroying property worth more than $200,000 and presenting a fraudulent claim.

The water board’s Cleanup Fund comes from a 2-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax that reimburses cleanups at underground petroleum storage tank facilities, with $2.9 billion given out since 1992.

HEI has been reimbursed more than $12.9 million from the Cleanup Fund since 1995, with $6.5 million in the past five years, according to the affidavit. An audit of three sites in 2008 determined overbilling on HEI’s part — padding labor hours, equipment overutilization and excessive vehicle charges — and overpayment by the State Water Resources Control Board.

The Haydens also allegedly received money for performing work in Santa Babrara when they were known to be in Costa Rica.

“Assuming that the audit is representative, HEI could have defrauded the Cleanup Fund of over $2 million in the last five years,” the affidavit states.

The water board’s office of enforcement, fraud waste and abuse prevention unit started the investigation, which culminated in searching the Haydens’ multimillion-dollar home on Alameda Padre Serra and vacation home in June Lake last week.

The Haydens were arrested last Thursday and remain in the County Jail on $200,000 bail, officials with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department said Monday. They could each face five years in prison if convicted.

The Attorney General’s Office is also filing civil charges against the Haydens, seeking restitution to reimburse the Cleanup Fund.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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