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Bogus Asbestos Trainer Pleads Guilty

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

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A former employee of an asbestos-removal training firm has pleaded guilty to falsely issuing asbestos-abatement certificates on the side to more than 100 people in exchange for cash.

Lachelle Rene Thrower, 44, of San Diego, CA, pocketed $10,000 to $30,000 in the process, defrauding her employer, a legitimate provider of asbestos removal training.

Thrower entered her plea Dec. 3 (Wednesday) in the case. She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy.

asbestos removal
©iStock / LianeM

Training for asbestos abatement professionals is required under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA), as well as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Her sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17, 2015.

Improper Credentials

Thrower was employed by an unidentified, approved provider of asbestos-removal training, authorities said. Workers seeking accreditation to remove asbestos were required to complete four eight-hour days of training and pass a written examination.

Instead, Thrower admitted that over more than four years—from May 14, 2010, to August 5, 2014—she falsely certified 100 to 150 training certificates for asbestos workers who did not attend the course or take the exam.

Rather, she kept the money and falsified the certificates by using an electronic signature of the authorized trainers.

Her phony certifications caused her employer to falsely report to the Environmental Protection Agency-approved agency (Cal/OSHA) that the individuals had attended the asbestos training and passed the exam, prosecutors said.

In addition, when trainees did attend classes and paid in cash, Thrower pocketed the money, she admitted.

Asbestos in lung

Asbestos is an extremely hazardous material that can lead to mesothelioma and lung cancer, according to the EPA. The Centers for Disease Control image above shows asbestos fibers lodged in the lungs.

All told, the scheme cost her employer $10,000 to $30,000, prosecutors said.

Reporting Crimes

The crime was uncovered by Thrower's employer, who “expeditiously” reported it to the FBI and Cal/OSHA, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum.

The company also helped Cal/OSHA identify the falsified certificates.

The agency was thus able to “prevent improperly credentialed asbestos workers from any asbestos removal employment,” Birnbaum said.

“The FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue those who jeopardize the public’s health while satisfying their own greed,” he added.

Asbestos Training

Training for asbestos abatement professionals is required under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA), as well as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Section 206(a) of TSCA prohibits any person from removing asbestos from schools and commercial buildings unless he or she has been trained under an EPA-approved program or an EPA-accredited state program.

“Unsafe disposal of asbestos endangers human health,” said Jay M. Green, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California.

“To ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations, government agencies need accurate and truthful information.”


Tagged categories: Asbestos; Business matters; Criminal acts; EPA; Ethics; Renovation; Worker training

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