May 18, 2009

Albania Deleon: Death in the Classroom

Albania Deleon is a entrepreneur. A legal immigrant and naturalized citizen from the Dominican Republic, she founded and operated Environmental Compliance Training (ECT) in Methuen, Massachusetts, the largest asbestos removal training school in New England. Between 2001 and 2007, she trained over 2,500 people in the intricacies of asbestos removal. Except that she didn't. Instead, she would fill out tests for certificate applicants and enter a passing grade. For $400, the (usually undocumented) worker was handed a certificate and then placed in a job through Deleon's other enterprise, Methuen Abatement Staffing. Her temporary workers handled hazardous abatement jobs throughout New England. (You can read the sorry details in a fine article by Beth Daley of the Boston Globe here.)

By the way, the training involves a total of 32 hours - not much of an investment in a life or death matter. (Some ECT students paid $350 and actually completed the training; for an additional 50 bucks, you could skip the training, pocket the certificate and get right to work, earning upwards of $15 per hour.)

ECT "graduates" went in to hundreds of schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, and homes throughout New England to remove asbestos. Most of them had no idea what they were supposed to do. Now there is deep concern that the workers, mostly young men from Central America, breathed the fibers, which can lodge in the lungs and lead to death decades later. Most had no idea how to properly wear a respirator.

In addition to their own exposure, these workers may have exposed their families to the cancer risk. Asbestos workers, if not properly trained, can inadvertently carry the fibers home on their clothes or hair.

More than a third of the 12,750 asbestos worker licenses and renewals issued in Massachusetts between 2002 and 2007 went to ECT "graduates." In New Hampshire, it was more than two-thirds.

Crocodile Tears
In November 2008 Deleon was convicted on 28 felony counts. Shortly before her sentencing, she wrote a rambling, hand-written letter to the sentencing judge. Among other things, she wrote:

"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...I commit myself to work ceacelessly [sic] to make restitution to the government and to the keeper of my soul until I draw my last breath life (sic)."

The reference to "last breath" is especially ironic, given that many of her "students" - along with innocent family members - will suffer excruciatingly painful deaths, as their breathing slowly and inexorably shuts down.

Facing more than 7 years in prison, Deleon skipped town. There is a warrant out for her arrest. Oh, she abandoned her 3 year old son in the process. Alas, it appears that "the keeper of her soul" doesn't have a whole lot to work with...

| 1 Comment

1 Comment

Totally despicable. Find her and send her to jail. If there is any money left, use it for the workers, their families and others who may have been exposed....this is totally wrong.
Oversight?

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This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on May 18, 2009 10:56 AM.

Health Wonk Review: the biweekly smorgasbord of the best fare in the health care policy blogs was the previous entry in this blog.

Collision course: the potential impact of Chrysler's bankruptcy & sale on state workers' comp systems is the next entry in this blog.

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