Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 16, 2013

Alcohol test service owner charged with crimes

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The owner of a company that provided alcohol and drug testing services for 86th District Court faces felony charges after he falsified test reports and provided them to the court, authorities said.

Ryan Matthew Gubbins, 30, of Lake Ann, is charged with felony obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice. A warrant was authorized on Aug. 7 but he had not been arrested by Thursday afternoon.

Gubbins' company, Tri-County Monitoring Services, was one of two companies that since 2011 provided alcohol and drug testing for individuals on bond or probation through 86th District Court. The district court covers Grand Traverse, Antrim and Leelanau counties.

Gubbins' relationship with the court ended in May and officials didn't provide an explanation until now. He's accused of falsifying records to indicate a woman on probation completed daily urine and Breathalyzer tests; authorities said the woman admitted she skipped the tests because she continued to use drugs and alcohol and knew she'd fail the tests.

"Obviously, the bad part is that if it's true, then the court is being provided false information and that's why the obstruction of justice charge," said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney.

Traverse City lawyer Jesse Williams, who represents clients in alcohol and drug-related cases, said he found it problematic when the county dropped Tri-County "overnight" with no explanation. He said allegations against Gubbins, if true, are troubling for people who relied on test accuracy.

"It's a scary situation that other people rely on that for their jobs and civil liberties," he said.

Court documents state the woman told investigators she began to miss required drug and alcohol tests in October 2012. At the time Gubbins told her "we'll figure it out," police reports show.

“She stated that she was drinking and smoking marijuana while on probation and there were times when she would call Ryan and tell him that she wasn't able to make it in for testing because she was drunk or had smoked pot," the document states. "She stated that she knew that she would fail these tests if she did go in, but Ryan still covered for her ... She advised that at some point she would just stop calling (altogether) and figured that everything was being covered Ryan.”

Investigators found no evidence the woman paid Gubbins or provided sex in exchange for missing the tests. Cooney said he knew of no other similar reports involving Gubbins.

"The only relationship I know of is she was ordered to do testing by the court and he was supposed to test her," Cooney said. "You can speculate all day about why he would do such a thing, but I don't have any more than that."

At one point after the investigation began, Gubbins called the woman and told her the district court's probation department staff were asking questions, according to the court documents. He asked her to sign daily sign-in sheets, which already had been backlogged with her signature.

"She advised that some of these are not her signature and could have been forged," the document states. "She stated that there was (Wite-Out) in some of the forms and she just signed over the (Wite-Out) areas."

Court Administrator Carol Stocking said the company no longer performs any testing for the 86th District Court. District Court Judge Thomas J. Philips said he and the other district judges could be called as witnesses in the case and declined to comment.

Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers said he doesn't know anything about Gubbins' case but said drug and alcohol tests need to be fundamentally accurate and reliable.

"If someone is not reporting violations, then they are allowing these people to become a danger to both themselves and to others," Rodgers said. "We want people to be sober, to do well on probation or parole and to do well in recovery, and for the public to be safe."

Gubbins, whose father operated a drug and alcohol testing service in Grand Traverse County, formed Tri-County Monitoring Services LLC in April 2011. The company provides alcohol Breathalyzer testing and collects urine samples that the company ships to California-based Redwood Toxicology Laboratory Inc. for drug screening, according to its website.

Williams said he always questioned the company's practice of sending drug screens to California because it was difficult to "confront the lab tech in the testing facility" over a questionable test result.

Rodgers said it's more likely a case of not reporting violations than offering false positive tests for people who aren't using "because they are going to scream bloody murder."

Gubbins also served as a member of panels for the 86th District’s sobriety and mental health courts. The panels advised the judge on treatment options for defendants.

Stocking said the court's relationship with Tri-County Monitoring started when officials looked for a company to complement Addiction Treatment Services to provide alcohol and drug tests. Addiction Treatment Services still provides tests for the court.

"When Gubbins started the company, we knew him," Stocking said. "He provided the same documentation that we would require for any agency that we are affiliated with. We looked at his business plans and certificate of insurance. He had a board of directors affiliated with his company. That is how we and why we selected (him)."

Staff writer BRIAN MCGILLIVARY contributed to this report.