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Bogus OSHA Trainer Pleads Guilty

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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A Louisiana woman has admitted impersonating a federal health and safety trainer in order to fleece unemployed immigrants displaced from the Gulf Coast fishing industry by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
Connie M. Knight, 46, previously of Belle Chasse, LA, pleaded guilty Thursday (Jan. 24) in federal court in New Orleans to one misdemeanor and three felony criminal charges for creating false identification documents and impersonating a federal official, state and federal authorities announced.
Knight was indicted in September on 22 counts alleging fraud and impersonation.
Badges and Bogus Titles
According to the plea agreement, Knight impersonated a high-ranking Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hazardous-waste safety instructor and inspector after the spill.

Hoping to capitalize on the cleanup effort, Knight claimed the non-existent title of “OSHA Master Level V Instructor and Inspector" and created a false federal badge with that title, authorities said.

Marine Life Mortality
Encyclopedia of Earth

The Deepwater Horizon spill on April 20, 2010, wiped out much of the Gulf Coast fishing industry. This is a snapshot of the marine life toll as of Oct. 14, 2010.

She then preyed on residents of Southeast Asian fishing communities in Southern Louisiana, charging them between $150 and $400 to take one of her training seminars. Knight promised her trainees lucrative cleanup jobs, although she had no connection to the cleanup effort.

Training Classes

Knight claimed that her classes satisfied the safety requirements that all individuals were to complete in order to be employed at a Deepwater Horizon hazardous-waste cleanup site. Court documents said Knight's classes lasted as little as two hours, while legitimate certifications would take at least six days of classroom training and three days of on-site training.

Furthermore, although many of her attendees were Vietnamese, Laotian or Cambodian, Knight spoke only English at the classes, and all materials were in English, authorities said. The attendees were largely individuals who had been in the fishing industry that had been decimated by the oil spill unleashed by the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Knight also hired some of her trainees and created false federal identification badges for them. Those employees believed they were working for OSHA and helped Knight gain access to more victims, authorities said.
Deepwater Horizon cleanup workers

The disaster created a new boom industry in cleanup work. Authorities said Connie Knight had no connection to the cleanup but rushed to capitalize on it.

In all, authorities said, Knight conned more than 1,000 people over five months. Some of her victims later gained access to hazardous-waste cleanup sites based on the fraudulent certifications she created.

Producing fraudulent federal identification documents carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Possessing a fraudulent federal identification document carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $100,000. The two counts of falsely impersonating a federal employee each carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Knight is scheduled to be sentenced April 12.



Tagged categories: Accidents; Enforcement; Hazardous waste; Health and safety; Offshore; Oil and Gas; OSHA; Worker training

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