In a complaint unsealed on May 1st, the former superintendent of the Alcova Reservoir — located in Natrona County, Wyoming – has alleged fraud and misconduct on the part of the Natrona County Road and Bridge Department. While the U.S. government has declined to intervene in the case, the whistleblower intends to pursue his claims that several financial reports and documents were falsified in order to obtain higher amounts of grant money from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Allegedly, the County has received overpayments from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (“USBR”) amounting to at least $1 million.
Details of Case Against Natrona County
The USBR owns several reservoirs in the Natrona County area, including the Alcova, Pathfinder, and Gray Reef reservoirs. These reservoirs are maintained by Natrona County officials and serve as a popular tourist destination, offering camping, boating, and recreational activities. Under an agreement between the county and the USBR, the Road and Bridge Department may charge fees for these tourist amenities, but is prohibited from using the revenue for any purpose other than improvement to the reservoir areas.
According to the complaint, officials regularly submitted financial reports showing the reservoirs were operating at a loss, thereby garnering additional funding from the USBR. Allegations also describe apparent discrepancies between county financial records and documents submitted to the USBR. Specifically, the whistleblower contends that, from 1999-2011, the reservoirs incurred expenses over $930,000 less than those reported to the USBR. Moreover, the county allegedly submitted records which did not include over $250,000 in income.
Specific Allegations of Fraud
The whistleblower made several specific allegations of fraud against Natrona County officials, including the following:
- Purchase of equipment used for other purposes with reservoir revenues;
- Falsified expenses to obtain grant money for construction and maintenance projects;
- Applied for grant money such that the government effectively double-paid for the same equipment;
- Failed to repay misappropriated funds.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming:
“While creating the appearance that it was operating the Reservoirs at a loss, the County has for the most part actually operated the Reservoirs at a profit and has diverted those profits to county uses other than Reservoir maintenance and operation.”
In addition to claims made for misappropriation of funds and fraudulent misrepresentation of loss, the lawsuit contains elements of wrongful retaliation, as well. According to the allegations, the whistleblower: “determined that the County was defrauding the United States to the detriment of the federal taxpayers, the Reservoirs, and those that use and enjoy them….When he attempted to bring this to the attention of County officials, however, he was terminated.”
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