Asbestos abatement school owner sentenced
A woman who was one of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "most wanted" fugitives was sentenced Sept. 13 to 87 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
She is the fifth environmental criminal captured since the EPA fugitive website was launched in December 2008, according to the announcement.
James Cattuso, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said he was was unaware of the fugitive list. He said he was amazed it existed.
"Certainly these are not violent crimes that would require wanted posters which is what they have here," Cattuso said. "I wonder if we need the EPA to be playing FBI?"
The specifics of the case are that Albania Deleon, 41, formerly of Andover, Mass., was the owner of the country's largest asbestos abatement training school. She fled the United States after being convicted in November 2008, of multiple offenses including that she sold training certificates to thousands of illegal aliens who had not taken the mandatory training course.
Deleon then placed these individuals in temporary employment positions as certified asbestos abatement workers in public buildings throughout Massachusetts and New England.
Folllowing her three-week trial, she also was convicted of encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States; making false statements about matters within the jurisdiction of the EPA; procuring false payroll tax returns and mail fraud.
From approximately 2001 to 2006, Deleon owned and operated Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), a certified asbestos training school located in Methuen, Mass. ECT offered training courses on a weekly basis. However, many of the recipients of the certificates never took the required course.
Instead, with Deleon's knowledge and approval, ECT's office employees issued course completion certificates to thousands of individuals who did not take the course. These individuals filed the certificates with the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety in order to be authorized to work in the asbestos removal industry. Many of the recipients were illegal aliens who wished to skip the four-day course so that they would not forego a week's pay.
The EPA stated, "Since the company's training course records were subject to inspection, Deleon sought to cover up ECT's practice of issuing certificates to untrained applicants by having the applicants sign final examination answer sheets that already had been completed and graded, which she maintained in ECT's files. Based on the evidence at trial and information supplied by the Division of Occupation Safety, ECT issued training certificates to over 2,000 untrained individuals."
The EPA's position is that no level of exposure to asbestos is safe, so removal by untrained workers, performed without the necessary safeguards, threatens the health of those workers and the public, the announcement stated.
"Today's sentence marks the final chapter in bringing Albania Deleon to justice," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Committing environmental crimes to make a profit that put workers and our communities at risk carry serious consequences."
"Today, justice was served, and Albania Deleon has finally faced the consequences of her crimes. I hope that this sentence sends a strong message to anyone who might contemplate fleeing to avoid punishment, that we do not give up on fugitives, and we will take all necessary means and resources to apprehend and prosecute them," said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton sentenced her and also ordered her to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $369,015 to AIM Mutual Insurance Company.