Only now, three full years after her conviction, is she finally sentenced, the woman responsible for endangering hundreds of illegal asbestos workers and innumerable members of New England communities. Albania DeLeon’s punishment is largely financial. She was ordered to pay $1.2 million restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and $370,000 restitution to AIM Insurance. Her prison sentence is a mere seven years, with three years of probation after her release. That seems mild compared to the death sentence handed down by most asbestos related illnesses, including asbestosis, mesothelioma and other malignant cancers.
Here’s a crime that makes identity theft look gentle in comparison. Most of DeLeon’s customers were illegal immigrants who, rather than obtain fake documents from underground agencies specializing in identity theft, chose to bypass that step and go straight to a skilled trade.
Forget fake drivers licenses, how about fake asbestos abatement certifications? The place to buy those in Massachusetts, which thrived for six long years, closed up shop in 2007 when its owner, Albania DeLeon, was exposed and arrested. She had been selling certificates to people and placing them in jobs where they were supposed to be trained to perform asbestos abatement services, except they weren’t. The workers didn’t have to undergo training at DeLeon’s school, they just had to pay an extra $50 to bypass the federally-mandated 32-hour program and get the certificate.
The closing of the long-lived fraudulent Massachusetts school for asbestos removal training and certification was a high profile story back in 2007 when it happened. It was an even bigger story in 2008 when DeLeon fled the country after being charged with dozens of felonies. She sawed off the monitor locked around her ankle, abandoned her three-year-old child and disappeared. That should teach the feds not to merely house arrest someone who’s destined to be the first woman ever placed on the EPA’s most wanted fugitives list.
As reported by the Boston Globe in 2009, DeLeon wrote a three page letter to US District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, part of which read: “I pray that God will forgive my soul and allow me to atone the rest of my life repaying and repairing the harm I have done. This is my solemn promise.” Although a prayer for forgiveness is not a solemn promise, one might gather from the letter that DeLeon sincerely wished to amend her wrongs. Unfortunately not. She fled the country. Nineteen months later, on October 30, 2010, DeLeon was arrested again in the Dominican Republic. Her actual sentencing took a while because the sincerely remorseful DeLeon secured herself a better lawyer for the hearing.
Although Cynthia Giles, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance says that “justice was served” in this case, we disagree. Sure, DeLeon was ordered to pay back the IRS and an insurance company for fraudulent tax return filings and claims, but the real loss occurred when more than 2,000 untrained, illegally certified asbestos workers were exposed to carcinogenic asbestos fibers or silicate minerals while unsafely removing asbestos from hundreds of New England schools, hospitals, churches and homes. In addition to the illegally certified asbestos workers, nobody knows how many children and other innocent members of the community were also exposed to asbestos fibers during these projects.
If you were exposed to asbestos and subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact a mesothelioma attorney. If you have any questions about the details of asbestos law and what is required to pursue a settlement, check out the information available on the Sokolove Law website as well as this Mesothelioma Resource website.