Friday, March 5, 1999

Tree service settles
fraud suit for overcharging
Army $184,000

By Harold Morse


Trees of Hawaii has paid $300,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Oahu Tree and Stump Removal on behalf of the federal government.

Steven Alm, U.S. attorney, said the suit claimed Trees of Hawaii defrauded the Army by overcharging for tree pruning and removal.

While not admitting any liability or wrongdoing, under a Feb. 26 agreement, Trees of Hawaii estimated it overbilled the Army about $184,000.

From January 1997 through April 30, 1998, Trees of Hawaii had a contract to prune and remove trees from industrial and family housing areas at Fort Shafter, Tripler, Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield.

Trees of Hawaii billed the Army on a payment schedule based on tree-trunk diameters.

Oahu Tree and Stump Removal received $70,000 of the settlement plus $20,000 in attorneys' fees for performing the initial investigation, filing the initial suit and notifying the U.S. attorney's office.

Terry Thomason, attorney for Oahu Tree and Stump Removal, said his client discovered the discrepancies in Trees of Hawaii work reports on tree sizes while preparing a bid for the same contract Trees of Hawaii had previously had.

Oahu Tree and Stump Removal used the Freedom of Information Act to see the earlier work reports to help them prepare their bid, Thomason said.

Then Oahu Tree and Stump Removal representatives went in and actually measured trees listed in the work reports and found the discrepancies in trunk sizes.

Oahu Tree and Stump Removal has submitted a subsequent bid, but the contract hasn't yet been awarded, Thomason added.

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