Nineteen months after she fled her federal sentencing hearing, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fugitive Albania Deleon was captured on Saturday in the Dominican Republic, the agency announced in a recent press release. 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 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,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “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. Agents 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 furthering 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.
More information on EPA’s fugitives list:http://www.epa.gov/fugitives/index.html