Chemical Depot Worker Convicted of Falsifying Test Results

Chemical Depot Worker Convicted of Falsifying Test Results

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Deseret Chemical Depot worker has been convicted of falsifying air monitoring test results.

David James Yarbrough, 52, Stockton, was convicted by a federal court jury Wednesday night on seven of eight counts of making false statements to a government agency. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"I'm disappointed," Yarbrough said as he left the courtroom. "It's difficult to go against someone big and powerful like the government."

U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell set sentencing for 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 10.

During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said that in June and July of last year, Yarbrough caused false information to be fed into computers evaluating the performance of air monitors.

Yarbrough, a civilian employee for the Army, worked at the depot 40 miles southwest of Salt Lake City for 22 years, including nine as a division chief at the Oquirrh Mountain Facility Plant, a research and development plant that tests chemical agent destruction methods. The Army's incinerator used to destroy chemical agents is in another facility at the depot.

Yarbrough was the head of the monitoring section when the plant was undergoing baseline tests on air monitoring equipment.

Monitoring stations had failed baseline tests previously. Yarbrough was carrying out recertification tests and asked a statistician to use data he had compiled.

Yarbrough provided his worksheets with figures on the success of monitor devices in detecting samples, rather than have her use operational logs that were recorded when technicians checked the monitors. When the statistician used operational log numbers, five monitors failed the tests. When she used his figures, they passed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott J. Thorley charged that "because of a personal need to get this baseline passed," Yarbrough wrongfully manipulated the system. The government claims figures were changed and records vanished.

Yarbrough, testifying earlier Wednesday, was asked whether he had the statistician use different numbers, and said, "Yes, meaning I used the passing challenge."

Rather than the first challenge test given to a monitor, which may have failed, he used the first passing figure. The defense contends that with recertification tests, only the daily passing grade needed to be evaluated.

Defense attorney Earl Xaiz argued that improved safety was Yarbrough's motive, that he was trying to get the monitors working so that they would be safe.

"Why would he jeopardize the safety of not only the people who worked in that facility, but himself?" Xaiz asked.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Y. Hirata contended Yarbrough lied to an investigator regarding the figures used.

"Why would he lie if the truth would set him free?" Hirata asked.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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