Former asbestos-removal trainer, once a fugitive, sentenced to prison
The owner of an asbestos training school who fled the United States after being convicted of selling phony certifications to illegal immigrants has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for the scam.
Albania Deleon, former owner of Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), one of the nation’s largest asbestos-abatement programs, was convicted in November 2008 on 28 felony charges, including issuing training certificates to more than 2,000 people who did not complete the course. ECT then found employment for the unqualified workers as certified asbestos contactors in public buildings throughout New England, putting the workers and the public at risk of exposure.
Deleon was scheduled to appear for sentencing March 23, 2009, but by then had fled to the Dominican Republic. Dominican officials arrested her in Santo Domingo on October 30, 2010. She waived extradition and was returned to the United States.
Deleon owned and operated ECT from 2001 to 2006. The company offered weekly training courses, but many of the recipients who received certification were illegal immigrants who did not want to miss work to take the four-day course. The certifications were then filed with the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety, which authorizes workers to conduct asbestos removal. Many of the workers who received the phony certificates were hired through a temporary employment agency also owned by Deleon.
According to the EPA, Deleon tried to cover up the fraud by having the untrained applicants sign final examination answer sheets that already had been completed and graded.
In addition to the fraudulent certification scheme, Deleon was convicted of encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States, making false statements to federal officials, falsifying payroll tax returns and mail fraud.
U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton sentenced Deleon to 87 months in prison, to be followed by three years of probation. She was also ordered to pay more $1.2 million in restitution.
According to the New York Times, Deleon, 40, is the first woman to be listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s fugitive’s list, which includes defendants charged with environmental crimes. The EPA’s criminal investigation division spent three years on the Deleon case.
“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, in a press release. “Committing environmental crimes to make a profit that put workers and our communities at risk [carries] serious consequences.”