Former Licensed Public Water Operator Pleads Guilty to Felony Fraud in Drinking Water Quality Testing

PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced 67-year-old Karen Hartwell of Sahuarita, AZ, pleaded guilty to Attempted Fraudulent Schemes & Practices in connection with her work as a certified water operator.

Between September 5, 2016, and June 30, 2017, Hartwell altered 13 drinking water test results for six different southern Arizona water districts that were clients of her company, YL Tech. Hartwell then submitted the altered results to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).  In each of the 13 altered test results, Hartwell modified the testing paperwork with a computer program to replace a positive coliform test result with a negative result.  Drinking water quality rules require testing for coliform bacteria on a monthly basis.

"The actions by this individual put the public at risk and now she's going to jail for it," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "Health and safety are top priorities of the government and this case sends a strong message to all individuals entrusted with checking and maintaining the quality of our critical resources."

As part of her plea agreement, Hartwell will serve eight months in jail and will pay a fine of $10,000. Sentencing is scheduled for January 3, 2019, in Pima County Superior Court.

ADEQ revoked Hartwell’s water operator certification in January of 2018 and notified all water systems that were customers of YL Tech of the issue.

Assistant Attorney General Adam J Schwartz is prosecuting this case.