Irrigation district, employees accused of conspiracy and fraud
The Truckee Carson Irrigation District and four employees have been indicted on charges including conspiracy to defraud the Bureau of Reclamation and falsifying records.
The Truckee Carson Irrigation District operates water storage and delivery facilities including Lahontan Dam and reservoir, Derby Dam, canals and ditches that deliver water to landowners in Northern Nevada.
The district gets a bonus for operating the water delivery system more efficiently. The bonus it gets is to keep two-thirds of any water it saves over and above the target for delivery efficiency. The irrigation district gets to use that extra water any way it chooses.
The indictment issued by the Reno federal grand jury charges that the irrigation district and employees David Overvold, 58; Lyman McConnell, 64; Shelby Cecil, 65; and John Baker, 63, committed fraud to collect incentive credits for “tens of thousands of acre feet of water” by submitting false data to the Bureau of Reclamation between 2000 and 2005.
They collected some 45,000 acre-feet of water as incentive credits. An acre-foot of water is enough water to cover one acre of land one foot deep ” about 326,700 gallons.
The indictment accuses the men of inflating water delivery efficiency data by tampering with flow meters. It says they used those incentive water credits to pay back the Pyramid Paiute Tribe water owed from a civil case in which a federal court judgment found the irrigation district made excessive water diversions in earlier years.
U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said the men are scheduled to appear Monday before U.S. Magistrate Robert McQuaid in Reno. If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison on each falsification of records counts and five years for each count of false claims, false statements and conspiracy. They also face maximum fines of up to $250,000.
He said the irrigation district itself could as an organization be fined up to double the gross financial loss involved.
The irrigation district also could be subjected to a court-ordered monitoring program.