Dominican Republic authorities have arrested a Massachusetts woman who vanished after her 2008 federal-court conviction for running an asbestos-removal business built on hundreds of fraudulently certified, undocumented workers.
Albania Deleon, who had disguised her appearance and was using the name Elba Henriquez Peña, was captured Saturday (Oct. 30) by Dominican authorities with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Environmental Agency announced.
Deleon, 41, was convicted in U.S. District Court in November 2008 on more than two dozen counts of mail fraud, tax fraud, conspiracy to make false statements, conspiracy to hire illegal aliens, and other charges.
Bogus Exams, Certifications
Deleon issued fraudulent asbestos-removal training certificates to hundreds of untrained workers from 2001 to 2006 when she owned and operated Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), a certified asbestos training school in Methuen, MA, said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
The company normally offered training courses at its offices, EPA said, but many of those who received certificates were never trained. “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,” according to the agency.
The applicants were told to sign final examination answer sheets that already had been completed and graded, then filed the certificates with the state to be authorized to work in the asbestos removal industry.
Asbestos Removal in 4 States
Most of these individuals were employed by Methuen Staffing, Deleon’s temporary employment agency that specialized in asbestos demolition. She sent the employees to job sites throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and beyond, EPA said.
From 65% to 80% of the individuals, many of them illegal aliens, were later found to be untrained.
Deleon paid most of the employees under the table and did not withhold taxes, authorities said. She reported to the Internal Revenue Service and her insurance carriers only those employees who actually had taxes withheld, allowing 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, 2009. When she failed to appear at the sentencing, a warrant was issued for her arrest, making her the first woman named to EPA’s fugitive list.
‘Put Communities at Risk’
“Albania Deleon put communities at risk by issuing fraudulent asbestos-removal training certificates to hundreds of untrained workers,” said Giles. “We are pleased that Albania Deleon will at last face punishment for the crimes for which she was convicted.”
Deleon was convicted after a nearly 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. EPA; 16 counts of procuring false payroll tax returns; and five counts of mail fraud.
After extradition to the United States, Deleon will face up to five years in prison on each count, except for the mail-fraud counts, which carry 20-year maximum sentences.