In November of 2008, Albania Deleon, 39, a U.S. citizen/émigré from the Dominican Republic, was convicted by a federal jury in Federal District Court, District of Massachusetts, of 28 counts of fraud for selling at least 800 fake asbestos-removal training certificates to foreign workers.
Deleon, formerly a resident of Andover, Massachusetts, reportedly sold the certificates to undocumented immigrants through her company, Environmental Compliance Training, which she founded in 2001. It grew to be the largest such asbestos remediation training company in the state, and – through a separate branch of the company – specialized in hiring temporary, or day labor, specifically for asbestos remediation.
The immigrants, who filed their bogus certificates with the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety, then went to work in Massachusetts and other New England states removing asbestos, a fibrous mineral that was used in insulation, floor and roofing tiles, tile glues and some ceiling panels up to the 1970s, when health officials began to recognize the dangers.
Asbestos, when disturbed, can release minute fibers which, when inhaled, cause illnesses like lung cancer, cancer of the pharynx, cancer of the esophagus, stomach cancer, colon cancer, cancer of the rectum, asbestosis and peritoneal mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can lie dormant for decades, but when it finally manifests the patient commonly dies with a year or two.
Deleon reportedly paid the workers in cash, thus escaping both employer-paid payroll taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, and worker’s compensation fees owed to the U.S. Department of Labor, whose OWCP (Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs) administers the program through the various states. These cash payments allowed Deleon to evade more than $1 million in fees.
The company shut down in May 2007. Deleon was convicted in 2008 and made the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) most wanted list on April 2 of 2009 when she failed to appear for a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 23 in Boston. Deleon’s last known address was in Salem, New Hampshire.
Making the list of “EPA Fugitives”, while not exactly an honor, is a rare occurrence, especially for a woman. The list, established in December of 2008, comes complete with mug shots and is aimed at drawing attention to flagrant, severe environmental crimes. The list comprises 21 individuals, all sought by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for fleeing rather than face prosecution and sentencing. Of the 21, Deleon is the only female.
A warrant has been issued for Deleon’s arrest. Deleon, who is facing up to 20 years in prison when apprehended, reportedly wrote to a judge before her March 23 court appointment asking for clemency and saying she was “humbled, ashamed and deeply contrite”.
The EPA Fugitive List was established after the capture, in Mexico, of David A. Phillips, who walked away from a federal prison in Oregon in March of 2008 after serving half his sentence for violations of the Clean Water Act in Phillipsburg, Mont.
According to Doug Parker, the deputy director of the EPA’s CID, the agency has 180 agents (carrying firearms and fully authorized to make arrests) stationed around the country and working in cooperation with state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and international intelligence agency Interpol.
Deleon’s attorney, Carl Donaldson, has so far declined comment.