West Haven Man Admits To Falsely Certifying Asbestos Abatement Supervisor Course Completion
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Tyler C. Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in New England, Patricia Ferrick, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Connecticut, Thomas Muskett, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Office of Inspector General for the Washington Field Office, and Matthew J. Etre, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations for the Boston Division, today announced that GUIDO A. CORTES-RODRIGUEZ, 64, of West Haven, pleaded guilty yesterday in Hartford federal court to one count of making a false statement to the federal government.
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.
“Government regulations related to asbestos and lead abatement exist for a very important reason: To ensure that this work is done properly and safely without endangering the public health,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “Individuals who game the system, especially those who illegally profit from it, will be prosecuted.”
“Asbestos and lead removal training providers are entrusted with keeping safe the supervisors, workers and the public that hire them,” said Special Agent in Charge Amon. “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.”
CORTES is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on April 18, 2016, at which time CORTES faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
This matter has been 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 is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anastasia E. King and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Kenyon.