No, this is not a joke. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) does have a criminal investigation division. When you read this story, as aired on the critically acclaimed radio station NPR, you will understand why.
Albania Deleon is on the run from the Environmental Protection Agency. The 39-year-old mother used to run the largest asbestos-removal training school in New England. More than a third of asbestos removal licenses issued in Massachusetts between 2002 and 2007 were graduates of Environmental Compliance Training, a company also known as ECT. It turns out most ECT graduates did not know the first thing about asbestos, or how to safely handle the material, because Deleon never trained them. Instead, she and her assistant sold them a certificate for $400 saying they were qualified, and then sent them on their way to these very dangerous jobs.
Asbestos has been linked to lung cancer and other illnesses. Authorities estimate at least 2,500 people received fraudulent certificates before Deleon was arrested in 2007. She was convicted on 28 felony charges last November. And prosecutors wanted at least a seven-year prison sentence. But before she was sentenced, she sawed off her ankle monitor, and she disappeared. She’s now one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s most-wanted fugitives.
Special Agent Michael Hubbard runs the EPA’s criminal investigation division in New England and shared the following information:
The majority of asbestos workers throughout New England had been trained at her facility and it was, for all outward appearances, a state-of-the-art training facility with classrooms. And some classes actually were conducted. But upon investigation, we find the majority of graduates received absolutely no training. Considerable attention has been given to make the public aware of the risk and the fact these folks, thousands of them, have been out there for several years. The reality is that oftentimes, these folks were illegal immigrants with false identification. And so locating them and identifying the continuing threat has been virtually impossible.
Special Agent Hubbard ended the interview with these words about Albania Deleon:
She is currently wanted by a U.S. district court. All members of law enforcement, be they federal, state or local, are aware through computers of her wanted status. So the net is wide. And indeed, for the egregiousness of her crimes, we will catch her.
Those that graduated from this fraudulent school with their fake certificates are not the only ones in danger as they run around pretending they are asbestos remediation experts. Those who hire these faux abatement professionals are also seriously at risk.