State News:

MDE Aims To End Fraudulent Use of Permits, Licenses

SOURCE: Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE)
In an effort to curtail the fraudulent use of licenses, permits and certificates that it issues, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is backing legislation that would create substantial criminal penalties and jail time for knowingly falsifying documents issued by or on behalf of the department. The proposed legislation, S.B. 125, would also penalize individuals who possess or display any permit, license or certificate knowing that the document is false or altered.

Speaking before the Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee, MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick tesified that "Currently, there are no criminal penalties for knowingly falsifying or altering any permit, license or certificate issued by or on behalf of MDE. Those few who engage in this type of activity enjoy an unfair competitive advantage over those who comply with the law and thwart the Department's efforts to protect the public health of Marylanders."

S.B. 125 calls for penalties of a $10,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail for possessing altered permits, licenses or certificates, a $25,000 fine and up to a year in jail for creating altered documents, and up to a $50,000 fine and up to 2 years in jail for subsequent offenders. It includes enhanced penalties for second offenses or any violation that occurs after conviction of this section or any other criminal provision of the Environment Article.

In particular, in recent years, individuals have falsified or altered permits, licenses or certificates issued by the Scrap Tire Program and the Lead Registry Program. Acts of falsification and tampering are performed for a variety of reasons and result in avoidance of compliance with MDE's regulatory programs. Of specific concern are fraudulent lead inspection certificates presented to homeowners by unlicensed abatement contractors or presented by property owners to MDE. These certificates certify the property is in compliance with either the lead-free or lead reduction standards, but they have not been properly inspected. False lead certificates are a threat to public health.

Additionally, some unlicensed scrap tire haulers are altering licenses that either are expired or have been issued to others. These fake licenses are shown to scrap tire generators that follow the department's advice to verify that any hauler they hire is a licensed hauler.

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This story was published on February 6, 2006.