Environmental Training Instructor Who Falsely Certified Asbestos Abatement Courses is Sentenced
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that GUIDO A. CORTES-RODRIGUEZ, 65, of West Haven, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in Hartford to two years of probation, the first six months of which CORTES must serve in home confinement, for falsely certifying the completion of asbestos abatement courses. Judge Chatigny also ordered CORTES to perform 160 hours of community service while he is on probation.
According to court documents and statements made in court, CORTES was a training instructor at North Star Center For Human Development (“North Star”), an organization that offered a variety of training courses and certification to individuals working with lead paint and asbestos. CORTES was the training manager and a primary instructor for those courses.
North Star’s lead and asbestos training courses were subject to regulation under the training provider accreditation requirements of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA allowed states to obtain U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorization to administer and enforce the standards, regulations and other requirements of the TSCA’s lead and asbestos programs, including the approval of training courses. The State of Connecticut received such authorization for asbestos and lead programs. Individuals in Connecticut who perform or supervise asbestos abatement activities must be certified by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH). To obtain certification, an individual must successfully complete an approved 40-hour asbestos abatement supervisor initial training course. North Star applied for and received approval from CT DPH to offer a wide range of lead and asbestos training courses, including asbestos abatement supervisor initial and refresher courses.
On December 16, 2015, CORTES sent notice to the CT DPH that an asbestos abatement supervisor initial training course would be conducted at North Star’s facility in Hartford from December 27, 2015 to January 2, 2016. Further, he advised that a 32-hour lead abatement worker initial course would be conducted from January 3 to January 6, 2016, at the same location. CORTES was identified as the training manager and primary course instructor for both courses.
An undercover FBI agent attempted to attend the second course under a fictitious identity, seeking a lead abatement worker initial course completion certificate. The agent skipped the first three days of the course, and attempted to attend on January 6, 2016. Upon arrival at the facility, the agent learned that no course was being conducted at North Star that day, and further, that no classes had been conducted for weeks.
The agent called the instructor, CORTES, who agreed to meet him at the North Star facility the following day. When the agent met with CORTES on January 7, 2016, the agent indicated he was interested in trying to get work as soon as possible. CORTES provided him with a list of items he would need from the agent, including his name, mailing address, Social Security number, passport-type photos and $1,260.
Later that day, the agent returned to CORTES’s office with the listed items and CORTES met with him in a cubicle. CORTES asked various biographical questions of the agent, filled out paperwork, and provided the agent with three certificates issued to A.R.: A 40-Hour Asbestos Abatement Supervisor Initial Certification, a 32-Hour Lead Abatement Worker Initial Certification, and an OSHA 10-Hour Construction Safety Training Course. CORTES accepted $1,260 cash in payment from the agent. The agent attended no classes conducted by CORTES at North Star, received no training from CORTES in these subject areas, and did not take any examinations. The false certificates issued by CORTES to the agent were signed by CORTES, bore an individual certificate number, and otherwise appeared to meet the requirements of Connecticut’s approved lead and asbestos accreditation programs, and therefore, the federal accreditation requirements. Subsequent investigation determined that CORTES provided fraudulent training certificates on multiple occasions.
“Asbestos and lead removal training providers are entrusted with keeping safe the supervisors, workers and the public that hire them,” said Tyler C. Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in New England. “Trainers who cheat and provide false certificates will continue to be a focus for EPA enforcement since they pose too great a risk to the public health.”
On December 21, 2016, CORTES pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the federal government.
This matter was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division and Office of Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anastasia E. King and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Kenyon.