Asbestos consultant admits training course for workers was a sham
A California safety consultant has admitted to issuing phony certificates to workers who failed to complete an asbestos-removal course.
Rogelio Lowe, owner of E&D Environmental Safety Training Inc, a company that offered occupational training for asbestos workers, pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud, said United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello.
According to Russoniello, from 2007 to 2009 Lowe charged a fee to students attending his asbestos removal training course but did not teach the course for the required number of hours. Some classes were no more than 30 minutes in length. Lowe also provided answers to closed-book examinations and forged tests for students who did not complete the course. In some cases, Lowe provided no training at all, according to the plea agreement.
Lowe then submitted class rosters to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which added the names of students to the state's list of qualified asbestos workers.
Asbestos was widely used in building and construction materials until the 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency began to regulate its use. The EPA says there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, which can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease that attacks the lining of the body's organs.
State and federal laws require asbestos workers to complete a 32-hour course over four days to learn how to safety handle friable, or crumbled, asbestos. In addition to lectures and demonstrations, workers must complete at least 14 hours of hands-on training and pass a closed-book examination before receiving certification. Certified workers must also take an annual refresher course.
Lowe is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 2 in San Francisco. The maximum penalty for each count is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.