A recent trend of fraud by asbestos removal companies may be endangering homeowners and residents.
The owner of a large asbestos removal training school was sentenced this month to more than seven years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution as punishment for selling hundreds of certificates of completion.
The company delivered the certificates to illegal immigrants who had not taken the required asbestos removal courses.
The certificates were used to allow the immigrant workers to perform abatement services without the proper training, all while getting paid “under the table.”
Albania Deleon owned and ran Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), a certified asbestos training school in Methuen, Massachusetts, outside Boston. She fled to the Dominican Republic in 2009 before she was originally supposed to be sentenced following her 2010 federal conviction. She was arrested again in Santa Domingo in October 2010, after being on the Environmental Protection Agency’s top fugitives list.
Exposure to asbestos has proven to be detrimental to people’s health because of the development of diseases such as mesothelioma. For this reason, the process of removing this toxic material, known as asbestos abatement, has become common with property owners of contaminated homes, buildings and products.
Purchasers of Deleon’s illegal certificates performed asbestos abatement services throughout the New England area. Records indicate that the company operated from 2001 to 2007, during which time more than 2,000 untrained individuals received certificates.
The full extent of the damage due to Deleon’s fraud is unknown.
Experts say her actions are not completely unique to the industry, as additional cases of fraud and falsification have also recently been reported. It’s not known whether any abatement performed by the untrained workers who had certificates from Deleon’s business has led to anyone being diagnosed with an asbestos related disease like mesothelioma.
Others in Asbestos Removal Business Faces Charges
Timothy Klingbiel, owner of an asbestos removal company based in Wisconsin, was charged with doctoring insurance liability certificates, among other charges, in May 2011. According to the criminal complaint, Klingbiel altered forms of liability to show that his company had insurance when it didn’t.
The asbestos abatement industry has also had incidences where physical mishandling have occurred, in which customers and local residents may have been put in physical danger.
In April 2011, former Buffalo Bills football player Sean P. Doctor, who owns an asbestos removal company called S.D. Specialty, was charged with a felony violation of illegally handling asbestos.
In Doctor’s case, investigators found that he had not properly secured, disposed of or labeled a “significant amount” of asbestos. His actions could have caused the toxic material to blow around in the wind causing health problems for nearby residents.
For decades, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined a variety of laws and regulations that control the manner in which asbestos abatement companies produce, remove, dispose and inspect the toxic material.
The lack of proper handling, documentation and care by abatement companies may be demonstrative of a bigger problem. Incidences like that of Doctor, Klingbiel and Deleon represent the blatant disregard of safety as well as a lack of understanding or care for the real harmful effects that are associated with asbestos exposure.
Even in instances where malice wasn’t intended, disregard for well-being can occur. When asbestos-containing buildings are destroyed or catch fire, for example, rescuers and first responders are often exposed to the toxic mineral and aren’t informed until much later. As they strive to do their job, they are not always aware or told of the underlying dangers that exist on the scene where they are working.
9/11 First Responders Exposed Unknowingly
A prime example of this would be the rescue efforts by policemen, firefighters and first-responders to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The amount of asbestos that they were exposed to was significant and it may be years until the true harmful affects to their health are known.
As the process of identifying and disposing of asbestos continues to be regulated by the EPA, residents and citizens will need to be more vigilant in their efforts to finding abatement companies that know how to best perform their jobs without compromising health or safety. There are things that you can do to better prepare you for the asbestos abatement process.
Your first step should be to identify whether or not your home or building has asbestos. This may involve researching the companies that you are interested in hiring to help with identification and removal. Contacting them will allow you to gauge their level of experience, professionalism and procedures.
Upon finding the right company and allowing them to examine your specific situation, you will then have the ability to determine what your next steps should be.
Not all cases of asbestos discovery require removal.