Albania Deleon, 41, a fugitive who falsified asbestos certifications for thousands of illegal aliens, was sentenced Sept. 13 in U.S. District Court in Boston to more than seven years in prison. Judge Nathaniel Gorton also ordered her to pay $1.2-million in back taxes and $369,015 in restitution to AIM Mutual Insurance Co., Burlington, Mass. Deleon owned and operated New England’s largest certified asbestos school, Environmental Compliance Training, which issued at least 2,500 certifications to people who hadn't taken courses from 2001 to 2007.
Deleon fled the country in 2008, sawing off her ankle monitor and leaving behind her 3-year-old son, following a three-week trial that found her guilty on 28 felony counts, including falsifying payroll tax returns and mail fraud. Despite a fake name and disguise, Deleon was arrested in her native Dominican Republic on October 30, 2010, during a vehicle stop.
Deleon’s school was a huge regional player responsible for more than a third of the 12,750 licensed asbestos workers in Massachusetts between 2002 and 2007. Officials believe the public health risks to the hundreds of remediated New England schools, hospitals, churches and homes are minimal. Workers are another matter, however. Many ECT graduates, mostly young men from Central America, were never told how to properly wear a respirator. Inhalation of asbestos fibers or silicate minerals can cause malignant lung cancer and mesothelioma, among other health problems.
The Methuen, Mass.-based school’s 32-hour asbestos training program cost about $350, with an additional $50 fee for those who wanted to skip the coursework and still receive certification. Deleon would fill out the tests for applicants, enter a passing grade, and place individuals in jobs through a side business, Methuen Abatement Staffing. She had been one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s most wanted fugitives.
“Justice was served. I hope this send a strong message,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a statement. “Committing environmental crimes to make a profit that put workers and or communities at risk carry serious consequences.”
Deleon will be incarcerated for 87 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.