Asbestos Removal Trainer Pleads Guilty to Sale of False Certificates
SAN DIEGO—United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that Lachelle Rene Thrower pled guilty today to falsifying federal asbestos training certificates, admitting that over a four-year period she falsely certified over a hundred workers as being trained and qualified to safely remove asbestos.
According to court documents, Thrower was employed by an approved provider of asbestos removal training. Any student seeking to be accredited to remove asbestos was required to complete four, eight-hour days of training, and to pass a written examination. Thrower admitted that between May 14, 2010, and August 5, 2014, she falsely certified 100-150 training certificates for asbestos workers who did not actually attend the training courses or take the necessary exam. Thrower kept the money paid by the non-attending trainees, and falsified the certificates by using an electronic signature of the authorized trainer. Her false certifications caused her employer to falsely report to the EPA-delegated agency (Cal/OSHA) that certain individuals had attended the asbestos training and passed the exam. Thrower also admitted that when trainees did actually attend classes and paid in cash, defendant would keep this cash herself instead of providing it to her employer. All told, Thrower caused a financial loss to her employer of between $10,000 and $30,000.
Training for asbestos abatement professionals is required under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA), as well as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Section 206(a) of TSCA prohibits any person from removing asbestos from schools and commercial buildings unless that person has been trained under an EPA-approved program, or a State program accredited by the EPA that has been found to be at least as stringent as the model program developed by the EPA. The EPA has accredited the asbestos training program of the State of California, administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the State (Cal/OSHA).
“Unsafe disposal of asbestos endangers human health. To ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations, government agencies need accurate and truthful information,” said Jay M. Green, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California. “Workers and the public are at risk when proper asbestos remediation training is not conducted, while people like the defendant fraudulently and cynically line their pockets. Fortunately, Thrower’s employer has cooperated with investigators and has identified the falsified certificates for Cal/OSHA. Today’s guilty plea demonstrates, however, that those who try to make money by breaking the law will be prosecuted.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge, Eric S. Birnbaum, commented, “Because Ms. Thrower’s employer expeditiously reported her criminal conduct to the FBI and the Cal OSHA, law enforcement was able to swiftly identify and prevent improperly credentialed asbestos workers from any asbestos removal employment. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue those who jeopardize the public’s health while satisfying their own greed.”
Thrower is scheduled to appear before United States District Court Judge Marilyn L. Huff on February 17, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. for sentencing.
DEFENDANT Criminal Case No. 14-CR-3485-H
- Lachele Rene Thrower
- Age: 44
- San Diego, California
SUMMARY OF CHARGE
- False Statements: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001.
- Maximum Penalty: five years in custody, the greater of a $250,000 fine or twice the illegal gain or loss, and a $100 penalty assessment.
- Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigations Division
- Federal Bureau of Investigation