Federal investigators with the Office of the Inspector General searched an Albuquerque business this month after a Sandia National Laboratories ethics team alleged fraudulent practices by the business.
De La Pena LLC, an air conditioning and plumbing business on Central Avenue, was contracted with Sandia from May 2008 to June 2017 to clean at the labs, including a cleanroom in the labs’ Center for Integrated Nanotechnology, which “demand a higher quality of cleaning then (sic) standard janitorial services,” according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed with the U.S. District Court.
The business, owned by Bobby Pena, who is its sole employee, was also tasked with providing air particle count monitoring.
Contacted Friday, Pena told the Journal that requests for comment must go through his attorney, Nick Hart.
“We have no comment,” Hart told the Journal.
The contract, which paid a fixed monthly rate of $2,475 for twice-weekly cleaning, ended in February 2017.
It is alleged that during that time, Pena did not provide sufficient cleaning services or particle count monitoring.
Researchers at the center work with such tiny objects that even a speck of dust could disrupt their work.
After reviewing video surveillance footage and badge swipe data for the center building, it was determined by the Office of the Inspector General that the employee spent an average of 31 minutes inside the cleanroom, when the size and scope of the cleaning should have taken around two to three hours, the affidavit states.
It was also noted that only one instance was observed of Pena bringing an air particle count monitor into the building.
During interviews with OIG agents in July 2017, Pena admitted that he did not conduct the required air particle count monitoring and provided false air particle count reports to the lab over a period of two years, according to the affidavit.
During a search warrant executed at the business Dec. 13, several external hard drives, a laptop computer and other electronic devices were seized from the business.
No criminal charges have been filed.
Sandia spokeswoman Heather Clark said an internal investigation began when a decline in service was noted in May 2016, at which point the subcontract was not renewed.
“Currently, Sandia has subcontractors who are cleaning the cleanrooms in question and meeting our high standards for cleanliness,” Clark said.