BY JAMES M. O’NEILL: NorthJersey.com

Hundreds of people in North Jersey were scammed by a storage tank removal company that faked tests on underground oil tanks to generate business, state Attorney General Anne Milgram announced Tuesday.

The clients, typically homeowners, were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars when the company falsified test results – in some cases adding oil to soil samples — to make it look like tanks were leaking. Albert Taylor, who ran the Lincoln Park company, was indicted Monday on two counts of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, and two counts of theft by deception. Taylor, 48, who now lives in Rocky Mount, Va., will be arraigned at a later date.

“We charge that this defendant systematically defrauded clients by falsifying test results to generate business,” Milgram said in a statement. “This defendant preyed on the fears of customers who were worried about the potential liability posed by a leaking underground tank.”

The customers were in Bergen, Passaic and Morris counties as well as Central Jersey and even into New York State and Maryland, officials said.

Taylor’s tank testing company did business under a variety of names, including Tank Automation, Tank Tek, IDC Tank, All Tank Services, Tank Environmental Service and Computek Services LLC, according to the Attorney General’s office. The company no longer operates in New Jersey, officials said.

The alleged fraud took place between January of 2006 and January of 2008. Taylor’s company charged clients, typically homeowners or those purchasing homes, from $250 to $1,200 to test underground storage tanks for leaks.

Taylor told customers he would conduct two high-tech tests on the oil tanks, but his employees did not even use the equipment needed to conduct one of the tests and used broken equipment or recorded insufficient data for the other, the indictment alleges.

Almost every client was told the test results indicated their tanks were leaking.

In addition, Taylor charged numerous clients from $350 to $850 to take soil samples around tanks, and then had employees add oil to the samples, according to the indictment.

Once the company’s employees told clients their oil tanks were leaking, they would recommend Tank Management as a reputable company to remove the tanks — without mentioning that Taylor owned the company, according to the indictment.

The investigation started with a tip to the Attorney General’s office, said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman at the attorney general’s office.

The charges came after an investigation by the Environmental Crime Section of the state Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau.

Two of the charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and $150,000 in fines, while the other two carry a maximum of five years and a $15,000 fine.

Neither Taylor nor his lawyer could be reached.

Any fines collected will not go towards financial restitution for the company’s scammed customers, but sometimes restitution can be part of the conclusion of a case, Aseltine said. He said it is too early to say whether that might occur in this case.

Oil Tank Removal Scam