Albainia Deleon arrested

September 25, 2011

The F.B.I. isn’t the only federal agency that has a most wanted list. 
Fugitives from environmental justice are featured on a most wanted list
at the Environmental Protection Agency. 
In fact, the only woman on the list was sentenced last week in an asbestos abatement scam. 
No level of exposure to asbestos is safe, so removal by untrained workers threatens 
the health of both the worker and the homeowner.
Albania Deleon, the former owner of the country’s largest asbestos abatement training school, 
was arrested in 2008 but fled the country after being convicted on 28 felony counts
 for certifying individuals as having 
asbestos removal training when they never took the required course. She was recaptured last year and recently sentenced 
to more than seven years in prison and three years probation. She was also ordered 
to pay more than $1.2 million in 
restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $370,000 to an insurance company.

Deleon is the fifth environmental criminal captured since the EPA fugitive website was launched in December 2008.
“Today, justice was served, and Albania Deleon has finally faced the consequences of her crimes. 
I hope that this sentence sends a strong message to anyone who might contemplate fleeing to avoid punishment, 
that we do not give up on fugitives, and we will take all necessary means and resources to apprehend and prosecute them,”
 said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.

Currently, there are 18 other fugitives on the EPA’s fugitive list. The most serious offender is Mauro Valenzuelawho in 1996 loaded hazardous waste oxygen generators on ValuJet flight 592 without taking the proper safety precautions. After a fire started in the cargo hold, the flight crashed into the Everglades shortly after take-off from Miami International Airport killing all 110 passengers and crew on board. Valenzuela was indicted in absentia. Some of the other fugitives on the list include:

Omran Alghazouli: Sold R-12 Freon, an ozone depleting substance, that had been illegally smuggled from Mexico. 

Raul Chavez-Beltran: Illegally transported and disposed of mercury contaminated soil.

Carlos and Alessandro Giordano: Arrested in 2003, the father-son team illegally imported Alfa Romeo sports cars into the U.S.
that did not meet emission or safety standards.

John Karayannides: Illegal discharged 487 tons of wheat tainted with diesel fuel into the South China Sea in 1998.

Much like the FBI, the EPA cautions: “Do not attempt to apprehend any of these individuals.” Instead, they recommend reporting them to the police, or because many of them have fled the country, to a U.S. Embassy
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A former employee of Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine was sentenced Thursday to spend 10 months in jail after he admitted faking a foreman’s license and lying to investigators looking into the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the Raleigh County operation.

U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger sentenced Thomas Harrah, 46, of Seth for two felony counts that Harrah admitted to as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

After a two day hearing in federal court in Rochester, N.Y ., that ended late yesterday, United States District Court Judge Charles J. Siragusa sentenced Keith Gordon-Smith, 54, of Rochester, to six years in prison for knowingly violating the Clean Air Act and making false statements to a federal inspector.   Gordon-Smith was also sentenced to serve a three year term of supervised release to follow his prison term and was ordered to pay a $1,100 special assessment. Gordon Smith’s now defunct company was sentenced to pay a special assessment of $4,400.

In November 2010, a jury convicted Gordon-Smith and his company, Gordon-Smith Contracting Inc. (GSCI) of two counts of causing GSCI workers to violate Clean Air Act asbestos work practice standards at the west wing of the Genesee Hospital complex located in Rochester.   The west wing was demolished in the summer of 2009.

The first violations took place between January and May 2007, when Gordon-Smith ordered GSCI workers to tear out copper pipes, ceiling tiles and scrap metal from the west wing, a six-story structure that contained more than 70,000 square feet of asbestos.   Gordon-Smith had a contract that allowed him to recover 50 percent of the salvage value of all copper pipe and scrap metal.

“The court’s sentence properly punishes Gordon-Smith and his company for the egregious crimes that placed workers and their families at risk and for his complete disregard of the environmental laws that protect human health and the environment,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.   “The court’s sentence should send a strong message to asbestos abatement contractors that they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The highly dangerous actions of Keith Gordon-Smith exposed both workers and the public to hazardous materials,” said William J. Hochul Jr, United States Attorney for the Western District of New York.   “Those in the asbestos removal industry are well compensated for their work, but in return are under legal and moral obligation to perform the job correctly. When a company cuts corners – or worse – intentionally exposes workers and the public to harm – our office will act quickly and decisively.”

“Ensuring Clean Air Act work practice standards for asbestos are followed when renovating or razing a building is critical to protecting workers and the public,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This sentence shows that when employers fail to adhere to the requirements of the law to make a profit, the consequences are serious.”

Gordon-Smith hired workers who had little formal education or English comprehension.   A number of the workers had no training in asbestos removal and did not know they were being exposed to the asbestos while removing the copper pipes.    Evidence at sentencing showed that when workers questioned Gordon-Smith, he lied and told them the areas did not contain asbestos.   Gordon-Smith ultimately lied to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector who came to the site in September and October 2007 to investigate allegations of illegal asbestos removal.

When the workers removed the pipes and scrap metal, they were repeatedly exposed to asbestos, and described that the asbestos fell on them “like snow.”   The workers were not provided with any protective clothing or respirators while tearing out the asbestos-contaminated pipes and wore their asbestos-contaminated clothing back to their homes and families after work.

The jury also convicted Gordon-Smith and his company of causing GSCI workers to illegally remove and dispose of asbestos during the actual asbestos abatement at the west wing, from May 2007 until February 2009.   The asbestos was allowed to flow from upper floors through drains and holes in containment.   Large amounts of asbestos were left hidden in the west wing.   Gordon-Smith was fired from the site in February 2009.   The building was subsequently cleaned of asbestos before it was demolished in September 2010.

The jury also convicted Gordon-Smith and his company of six counts of failing to provide required notices to EPA prior to commencing asbestos abatement projects at six different sites in the Rochester area, between 2005 and June 2008.   The sites included the west wing of the Genesee Hospital Complex, Cobbles Elementary School in Penfield, N.Y ., Bloomfield Elementary School in East Bloomfield, N.Y ., the Al Sigl Center in Rochester, and the Hillside Children’s Center in Varick, N.Y.

Asbestos work practice standards under the Clean Air Act require that all asbestos must be removed from any structure where it may be disturbed, such as the west wing where Gordon-Smith ordered the workers to remove pipes contaminated with asbestos.   While asbestos is removed during abatement, it must be wetted and kept adequately wet at all times and disposed of as soon as practical at an EPA-approved site.

The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York with the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.   The case was investigated by the United States EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the United States Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General. Criminal investigators were assisted by OSHA and the New York Department of Labor Asbestos Control Bureau.

Robert Swing of MIT Tank Wash

September 18, 2011

On May 11, 1993, Robert Girvin Jr. died when he was overcome by fumes from the solvent he was using to clean the inside of a tank. He and other employees of MIT Tank Wash, a tank cleaning company in Savannah, Ga., were required to clean fuel out of the tanks. This included including a hazardous fuel additive, fleurodyne FD-100, that is a poisonous solvent.

Violating OSHA regulations, MIT’s employees routinely cleaned tanks alone.

Robert Girvin Jr. entered a tank alone, quickly became disoriented, and died from the toxic fumes.

Owner Robert Swing had previously been warned by OSHA to buy proper safety equipment — including a retrieval system to rescue workers — but he hadn’t. In June 1995, Swing pled guilty to a willful violation of OSHA regulations, and was sentenced to six months in jail, one year probation, and a $190,000 fine.