Business Pleads Guilty to Defrauding TCEQ Grant Program
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced that Champion Dirt, Inc., pleaded guilty Dec. 19 to two first degree felony counts of Securing Execution of a Document by Deception, and paid a $10,000 fine. Billy Ray Martinez, the president of the company, also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts, and was ordered to serve two years probation and pay $340,000 in restitution to the TCEQ. Mr. Martinez paid $169,000 at sentencing, and is required to pay the remaining balance within the term of probation.
The TCEQ Environmental Crimes Unit discovered that Mr. Martinez and Champion Dirt, Inc. obtained grants from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) by submitting false documents to the TCEQ. Champion Dirt, Inc. is an excavation and construction company located in Conroe, Tex.
The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) is a voluntary incentive program administered by the TCEQ to improve air quality in Texas. The TERP program helps Texas meet federal air quality standards by reducing emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), which reacts with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight to form ground-level ozone (or smog). TERP grants help offset the cost of replacing or upgrading older, high-emission trucks and non-road equipment with newer models and engines that have substantially fewer emissions.
This investigation was conducted by the TCEQ Environmental Crimes Unit, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Environmental Crimes Unit, and the Texas Environmental Enforcement Task Force. The case was prosecuted by the Travis County District Attorney’s office.