The F.B.I. isn’t the only federal agency that has a most wanted list. Fugitives from environmental justice are featured on a most wanted list at the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, the only woman on the list was sentenced last week in an asbestos abatement scam. No level of exposure to asbestos is safe, so removal by untrained workers threatens the health of both the worker and the homeowner.
Albania Deleon, the former owner of the country’s largest asbestos abatement training school, was arrested in 2008 but fled the country after being convicted on 28 felony counts for certifying individuals as having asbestos removal training when they never took the required course. She was recaptured last year and recently sentenced to more than seven years in prison and three years probation. She was also ordered to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $370,000 to an insurance company.
Deleon is the fifth environmental criminal captured since the EPA fugitive website was launched in December 2008. “Today, justice was served, and Albania Deleon has finally faced the consequences of her crimes. I hope that this sentence sends a strong message to anyone who might contemplate fleeing to avoid punishment, that we do not give up on fugitives, and we will take all necessary means and resources to apprehend and prosecute them,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.
Currently, there are 18 other fugitives on the EPA’s fugitive list. The most serious offender is Mauro Valenzuela who in 1996 loaded hazardous waste oxygen generators on ValuJet flight 592 without taking the proper safety precautions. After a fire started in the cargo hold, the flight crashed into the Everglades shortly after take-off from Miami International Airport killing all 110 passengers and crew on board. Valenzuela was indicted in absentia. Some of the other fugitives on the list include:
- Omran Alghazouli: Sold R-12 Freon, an ozone depleting substance, that had been illegally smuggled from Mexico.
- Raul Chavez-Beltran: Illegally transported and disposed of mercury contaminated soil.
- Carlos and Alessandro Giordano: Arrested in 2003, the father-son team illegally imported Alfa Romeo sports cars into the U.S. that did not meet emission or safety standards.
- John Karayannides: Illegal discharged 487 tons of wheat tainted with diesel fuel into the South China Sea in 1998.
Much like the FBI, the EPA cautions: “Do not attempt to apprehend any of these individuals.” Instead, they recommend reporting them to the police, or because many of them have fled the country, to a U.S. Embassy.
—Mary H.J. Farrell