gavelA Mississippi woman has been sentenced to 57 months in prison for impersonating an OSHA officer and conducting a hazardous waste cleanup training scam on out-of-work fishermen in the Gulf Coast region.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Connie Knight, 47 and formerly of Belle Chasse, claimed to be a OSHA safety instructor and held classes with people hoping to get jobs cleaning up the Gulf after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Many of those who were exploited by Knight were fishermen unable to pursue their work in the aftermath of the environmental disaster.

According to the indictments against Knight handed down last September, she impersonated an OSHA “Master Level V Inspector and Instructor” by using false OSHA credential and a false OSHA email address. However, Knight had no connection with the agency or training in hazardous waste safety.

Knight targeted Southeast Asian immigrants who were not fluent in English, convincing them that they would be able to get well-paid cleanup work if they attended and paid for her hazardous waste training courses.

All cleanup personnel were required to receive (legitimate) hazardous waste safety training before working in contaminated areas due to dangers from the oil itself and cleanup materials.  

Officials say Knight defrauded an estimated 1,000 people between August and December of 2010.

In January, she pleaded guilty to three felonies and one misdemeanor for creating false identification documents and impersonating a federal official. Justice officials say she was ordered to pay $25,300 in restitution to victims.