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occupational safety

EPA’s “Most Wanted” Fugitive Captured

Officials with the US Marshals Service and the Environmental Protection Agency captured escaped fugitive Albania Deleon last week in the Dominican Republic. Ms. Deleon was convicted of issuing certificates for an asbestos-remediation training class to unqualified applicants. She had fled the country prior to her sentencing hearing in March. When she failed to appear, US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton issued a bench warrant for her arrest.

Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said that Ms. Deleon “put communities at risk” by issuing hundreds of the false certifications. She credited the teamwork of the US Attorney’s Office, the Marshals Service, EPA special agents and Dominican law enforcement for tracking down and capturing Ms. Deleon. Carmen Ortiz, a prosecutor with the US Attorney’s Office, also credited both American and Dominican agencies in insuring that Ms. Deleon “will at last face punishment” for her crimes.

Ms. Deleon was convicted on more than twenty offenses in November 2008. The crimes include mail fraud, accessing fraudulent payroll tax documents, encouraging illegal aliens to live in the US, conspiracy to make false statements to government officials, and making false statements to the EPA. She also now faces potential charges of resisting arrest, fleeing the country and defaulting on her bail agreement.

From 2001 to 2006, Ms. Deleon owned a training company called Environmental Compliance Training. The school received certification from both the EPA and the state of Massachusetts. The company also offered four-day training classes in asbestos handling, removal and cleanup processes. However, many of ECT’s clients did not attend the classes and did not receive the proper training for dealing with the dangerous material. Instead, Ms. Deleon issued the certificates and falsified final exam results.

Investigators later found that many of the ECT clients that received the false certificates were illegal aliens. The illegal workers would often skip the class sessions in order to work at other jobs while the instructors carried out the lessons. The workers would then use the certificates to get better-paying jobs on asbestos remediation projects, although they were not qualified and often did not use the proper safety protocols.

An inspection of ECT’s records showed that up to eighty percent of the certificates Ms. Deleon issued were to students who did not complete the class. She also used her temporary employment agency, Methuen Staffing, to employ many of the illegal workers who came to her for certification. Methuen Staffing provided workers for many asbestos removal projects throughout New England.

Ms. Deleon was also convicted of creating false tax statements, as she would often pay the workers in cash or by other means in order to avoid filling out tax documentation. Instead, she only reported the employees whose taxes she withheld. Investigators estimated that she saved her business well over a million dollars in taxes and workers’ compensation insurance payments by keeping the illegal workers off the books.

Deleon is still in the Dominican Republic, but faces up to twenty years in prison on each count of mail fraud and five years on every other count when she is extradited back to the US.

Sources: EPA website, Boston Herald