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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane filed hundreds of charges -- including for alleged environmental crimes, insurance fraud, theft, conspiracy and corruption -- against a Marcellus Shale waste hauler and its family member-owners on Friday.
The attorney general's office said a grand jury recommended criminal charges against Minuteman and its owner, Brian Bolus, after hearing evidence and testimony. Multiple conspiracies involving Bolus and his mother, two siblings, his father and his father's fiancee resulted in additional charges.
According to Kane's office, the investigation began with allegations that Minuteman -- based in Milton, in Northumberland County -- and Bolus had violated the state's environmental laws by burying and dumping solid waste from well drilling operations throughout several counties.
"In addition to violating the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law and the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act, the grand jury found that Brian Bolus and Minuteman overbilled every business with which they contracted by at least one hour per invoice, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars," the attorney general's office said.
Investigators looking into the alleged environmental crimes then discovered that several of Bolus's family members were on the payroll either at Minuteman or at two companies owned by his father, Robert Bolus Sr. The grand jury determined that siblings Robert Bolus Jr. and Debra Bolus, mother Julie Bolus and Sophie Gregory, the elder Bolus's fiancee, were ghost employees who conspired to be eligible for group health insurance.
The family members are accused of collectively submitting $500,000 in insurance claims, which in turn raised health care premiums for other employees at the businesses.
"Many current and former Minuteman employees testified that they believed they would have been fired if they did not follow Brian Bolus's demands to overbill companies and put his family members on the payroll," the attorney general's office said.
"Brian Bolus reaped significant financial benefits from the crimes he is accused of committing. His assets include a $1.4 million-home in Lewisburg, a vacation home in Park City, UT, valued at $2.4 million, and a company spill response truck outfitted for family occupancy."
Brian Bolus faces a total of 64 charges, including 16 counts of insurance fraud and 12 counts of theft by deception. If convicted of all the charges, he faces a maximum fine of nearly $1.4 million. The other defendants each face 39 charges. Bolus Sr. is currently incarcerated in Lackawanna County Prison on charges from a separate insurance fraud investigation.
"Brian Bolus and Minuteman blatantly exploited hard-working employees, dozens of businesses and the environment," Kane said. "The laws are in place to ensure that all businesses are on a level playing field. When one company cheats, all good companies and the citizens of Pennsylvania suffer as a result."
The businesses charged include Minuteman Spill Response Inc. (52 counts total), Minuteman Towing Inc. (52) and Minuteman Environmental Services Inc. (13). Three additional businesses based in Throop, in Lackawanna County -- Bolus Truck Parts and Towing Services Inc., Key Brockway Inc., and Key Sales and Center Inc. -- each face 39 counts.
In 2012, Minuteman Environmental Services partnered with Chesapeake Energy Corp. to help Polymics Ltd. develop a lightweight, reusable, leak-proof mat system to contain mud and fluids during pad construction. The invention won an award in a competition by the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center (see NGI, May 28, 2012).
XTO Energy Corp., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., hired Minuteman Spill Response to clean a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) fluid spill at one of its gas wells in Penn Township, in Lycoming County, in 2010 (see Shale Daily, Nov. 29, 2010).