A Mississippi woman is facing years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after allegedly posing as a federally certified safety trainer in the wake of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
A 22-count indictment, unsealed Sept. 26 in federal court in New Orleans, charges Connie M. Knight, 46, with impersonating a federal employee to entice people to pay her for bogus hazardous waste safety training.
U.S. Coast Guard
|Authorities said the scam preyed on immigrant fishing workers displaced by the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, fire and oil spill. Eleven workers perished in the blast.|
Authorities say Knight conned more than 1,000 people in five months by targeting members of Louisiana’s Southeast Asian communities who had been displaced from the fishing industry wrecked by the BP explosion and oil spill. Many of her victims neither read nor spoke English proficiently, officials said.
Bogus Credentials, Empty Promises
The indictment says Knight created and used fraudulent diplomas, certifications and Occupational Safety and Health Administration credentials to convince individuals that she was an authorized hazardous waste trainer.
The indictment also charges Knight with creating, possessing and distributing false federal identification documents.
Knight, previously of Belle Chasse, LA, was arrested by federal agents last week at her home in Wiggins, MS, and appeared later in federal court.
The indictment alleges that Knight impersonated an OSHA “Master Level V Inspector and Instructor” by using false OSHA credentials, a false OSHA e-mail address, and various other ruses.
Knight told her targets that they would be able to procure lucrative cleanup work if they attended and paid for her training courses. She also hired several of her targets and provided them with bogus OSHA credentials as well, according to the indictment.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster devastated the Gulf Coast fishing community, and many of those left without livelihoods turned to work in the cleanup effort. All cleanup personnel were required to receive hazardous waste safety training before working in contaminated areas.
Prison Terms, Fines
Knight could face decades in prison and multiple six-figure fines if convicted of the charges.
Each charge of producing and transferring fraudulent federal identification documents carries up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The charge of possessing a fraudulent federal identification document carries up to one year in prison and a fine of $5,000. The 19 counts of falsely impersonating a federal employee each carry up to three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from OSHA, the FBI, and investigators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s office.