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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: EPA Fugitive Apprehended; Concrete Mfr Fined; Pesticide Sellers Settle EPA Complaint

Environmental Leader’s daily roundup of key environmental enforcement news

EPA Fugitive Apprehended in Dominican Republic

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fugitive Albania Deleon was captured on Saturday in the Dominican Republic, EPA announced today. Dominican law enforcement authorities with the assistance of the United States Marshals Service, arrested Deleon, who had disguised her appearance and assumed a false identity, following a vehicle stop.

Deleon fled her federal sentencing hearing 19 months ago. She was wanted by EPA for certifying individuals as having asbestos removal training when they never took the required course.

“Albania Deleon put communities at risk by issuing fraudulent asbestos-removal training certificates to hundreds of untrained workers,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said in a prepared release. “This is yet another example of great teamwork and dedication of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, U.S. Marshals Service and our own special agents who protect the American people from environmental crimes.”

“We are pleased that Albania Deleon will at last face punishment for the crimes for which she was convicted,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “I wish to commend and thank the Dominican law enforcement authorities and U.S. Marshals Service for their hard work in pursuing her.”

On Nov. 20, 2008, Deleon, 41, was convicted in federal court after nearly a three week trial on one count of conspiracy to make false statements, to encourage illegal aliens to reside in the United States and to hire illegal aliens; five counts of making false statements within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; 16 counts of procuring false payroll tax returns; and five counts of mail fraud.

From approximately 2001 to 2006, Deleon owned and operated Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), a certified asbestos training school located in Methuen, Mass. ECT normally offered training courses on a weekly basis at its offices, however, many of the recipients of the certificates never took the required course. Instead, with Deleon’s knowledge and approval, ECT’s employees issued certificates of course completion to hundreds of individuals who did not take the course. These individuals filed the certificates with the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety to be authorized to work in the asbestos removal industry. Many of the recipients were illegal aliens who wished to skip the four-day course so that they would not forego pay.

ECT’s training course records were subject to inspection and Deleon sought to cover up ECT’s practice of issuing certificates to untrained applicants by having the applicants sign final examination answer sheets that already had been completed and graded, which she maintained in ECT’s files. Evidence at trial proved that of the all the ECT training certificates issued, approximately 65 percent to 80 percent of the individuals had not taken the necessary training.

Most of these individuals who were not certified were employed by Methuen Staffing, Deleon’s temporary employment agency that specialized in asbestos demolition. She sent the employees to job sites throughout Massachusetts, including the Boston, Worcester and New Bedford-Fall River areas, as well as to New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and beyond. Deleon paid most of the employees “under-the-table,” and did not withhold taxes. She reported to the Internal Revenue Service and her workers compensation insurance carriers only those employees that actually had taxes withheld, which enabled her to save more than $1 million in tax and insurance payments.

Deleon fled Massachusetts two days before she was scheduled to be sentenced on March 23, 2010. When she failed to appear at the sentencing hearing, United States District Judge Nathaniel Gorton issued a warrant for her arrest. Deleon became the first woman named to EPA’s fugitive list. The U.S. Marshals Service undertook a nationwide search for her, and once it determined that she had fled the country, the U.S. State Department submitted, on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a request to the Dominican government to arrest and extradite Deleon.

Agents with the Direccion Nacional de Control de Drogas (DNCD) observed Deleon at a residence in Santa Domingo, and subsequently pulled over her vehicle after she left the residence. Upon her arrest, Deleon claimed she was Elba Henriquez Peña and was carrying a false identity card with her picture and her name. Upon further questioning, she admitted that she was Albania Deleon and was wanted in the United States. Deleon was transported to DNCD headquarters for booking and processing and will be held pending an extradition hearing.

Deleon faces an extradition hearing in the Dominican Republic. Upon her return to the United States, she will face up to five years imprisonment on each count, except for the mail fraud counts, which carry 20-year maximum sentences.

EPA Fines Concrete Manufacturer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed that a concrete manufacturing plant in Pawtucket, RI, pay a penalty of up to $177,500 for illegally discharging storm water and process water in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, EPA announced today.

According to EPA’s New England office, PRM Concrete Corporation violated the Clean Water Act by discharging stormwater and process water to municipal catch basins and to the Seekonk River without the required authorization under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. The violations at PRM occurred from October 2005 through August 2008.

EPA alleges the company discharged storm water associated with industrial activity, without authorization, from October 2005 until August 2008; discharged process water, without authorization, from October 2005 until May 2007; and  failed to file for permit coverage for the storm water discharges from its facility until August 2008.

EPA’s complaint was the result of an inspection of PRM’s plant on May 14, 2007. PRM informed EPA towards of the end of September that it had ceased operations.

“Storm water runoff from industry often carries sediment, debris and other pollutants into nearby waterways,” Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office said in a press release. “It is everyone’s responsibility to protecting our waters and it is up to industry to assess the adequacy of their own stormwater controls.”

The Clean Water Act requires that many industrial operations, such as ready-mix concrete plants, obtain discharge permits and implement controls to prevent the facilities from discharging pollutants into nearby waterways through storm water runoff. Each site must develop and maintain a storm water pollution prevention plan to put in place these practices.

Four Pesticide Companies Fined, Settle EPA Complaint

Region 7 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday that it has reached a civil settlement with four affiliated Missouri pesticide companies and two of their owner-managers in which the businesses will pay a consolidated $51,850 penalty for allegedly violating federal pesticide regulations in 2005 and 2008. Under the agreement, the settling parties will also pay a separate $22,712 civil penalty that had gone unpaid by one of the firms since a previous EPA enforcement action in 2005.

FRM Chem, Inc., Advanced Products Technology, Inc., Synisys, Inc., and Custom Compounders, Inc. all of Union, Mo., and owner-managers Keith G. Kastendieck and Karlan C. Kastendieck, are the respondents in a consolidated consent agreement and final order filed in Kansas City, Kan.

Separate amended complaints against the respondents were filed by EPA in June 2009, alleging that the four companies sold or distributed one or more unregistered pesticides in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The separate complaint against FRM Chem, Inc., alleged that FRM also sold or distributed pesticides in violation of a Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order.

EPA’s complaints against the companies were based in part on inspections conducted by the Missouri Department of Agriculture in December 2005 and October 2008.

EPA’s subsequent review of records from the companies and some of their customers showed that between December 2005 and November 2008, on at least 77 occasions, the respondents sold quantities of the unregistered pesticide products FRM Chlor 1250, Steri-Dine Disinfectant, and Sodium Hypochlorite Solution. The review also showed that on at least two occasions, in October and November 2008, FRM Chem, Inc., sold quantities of FRM Chlor 1250 after a Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order had been issued against the product.

In addition to agreeing to pay a $51,850 civil penalty for those violations, the settling parties also agreed to pay a previously unpaid $22,712 civil penalty that was brought against FRM Chem, Inc., in 2005 for selling an unregistered and misbranded pesticide product known as Root Eater in 2002.

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