Environmental Protection

Indictment Alleges Impersonator Trained Cleanup Workers

Connie M. Knight, 46, is charged with impersonating a federal employee for the purpose of enticing more than 1,000 people to pay her for fraudulent hazardous waste safety training, so they could work on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division and Jim Letten, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, on Sept. 26 announced a 22-count indictment was unsealed in federal court in New Orleans charging Connie M. Knight, 46, with impersonating a federal employee for the purpose of enticing people to pay her for fraudulent hazardous waste safety training. They said federal agents had arrested Knight that day in Wiggins, Miss.

The indictment also charges Knight with possessing false federal identification documents, creating false federal identification documents, and transferring false federal identification documents to four employees she had hired.

Knight allegedly impersonated an OSHA "Master Level V Inspector and Instructor" by utilizing false OSHA credentials, a false OSHA email address, and other means. From August to December of 2010, she defrauded more than 1,000 people, targeting members of Southeast Asian communities in southern Louisiana, many of whom could not read or speak English proficiently, according to a news release from the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs.

"In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many fisheries were closed, causing many fishermen in the Gulf region to seek other sources of employment, including as oil spill cleanup personnel. All cleanup personnel were required to receive hazardous waste safety training before working in contaminated areas due to dangers from the oil itself and cleanup materials," it states.

The indictment states that Knight knew she had no authority to produce or transfer the false OSHA identification badges.

Each charge of producing and transferring fraudulent federal identification documents carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The charge of possessing a fraudulent federal identification document carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $5,000. The 19 counts of falsely impersonating a federal employee each carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from OSHA, the FBI, and investigators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's office.

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