Environmental Protection

Six-Year Sentence Imposed in OSHA Impersonator Case

Court documents indicated Connie M. Knight required each attendee to pay between $150 and $300 cash to enter a class and at least 950 people were victims of her crimes in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Four months after pleading guilty to three felony charges, Connie M. Knight, 47, was sentenced to 57 months in prison for creating false identification documents and impersonating an OSHA official. She provided fraudulent hazardous waste safety training to individuals seeking to work during the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which posted a news release May 17 about her sentencing.

Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general of the department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, announced the sentence. Knight also was ordered to pay victim restitution of $25,300.

"On the heels of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, Knight illegally profited from a community already suffering from the impacts of the oil spill by impersonating a federal official and raising false hopes for employment. For that she is being held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Moreno said in the news release. "The Department of Justice is committed to environmental justice and will vigorously prosecute those who victimize vulnerable communities."

Boente said Knight "took advantage of an environmental disaster and the resulting vulnerabilities of an immigrant community. Her callous crime focused on her financial gain, ignoring the potential harm to the restoration of the Louisiana coastal region."

Knight pleaded guilty Jan. 24, 2013, to three felony criminal charges and one misdemeanor criminal charge.

"Today's sentencing sends a strong message to those who would intentionally engage in fraudulent activity that compromises the integrity of the Department of Labor's OSHA program," said Daniel R. Petrole, deputy inspector general for the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General. "The defendant not only defrauded people who were desperate for jobs, but also created a risk that poorly trained workers could expose both themselves and the public to hazardous waste that was improperly handled or cleaned up," added Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

According to the release, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk considered statements from victims who said Knight targeted the Southeast Asian fishing communities in southern Louisiana, including many people who did not speak or read English and fishermen who were looking for work because shrimp grounds were closed from the time of the spill through late 2010. "Knight convinced young bilingual individuals from Southern Louisiana, who believed her to be an OSHA trainer, that she could be a source of employment for their struggling communities. She then used those individuals to publicize her trainings throughout the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian neighborhoods," it says.

Court documents indicated Knight required each attendee to pay between $150 and $300 cash to enter a class and at least 950 people were victims of her crimes in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

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