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The Green Life: The EPA Tracks Down its Asbestos-Abetting Fugitive

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November 03, 2010

The EPA Tracks Down its Asbestos-Abetting Fugitive

IStock_000013015610XSmall It was 1866, and the Industrial Revolution had people cramming their homes and workplaces full of healthy, handy asbestos. It was insulating. It put a roof over your head. It came in a spray can. The limitless potential of such a fine fiber made it all the rage.

Then the 1970s arrived, and the benefits asbestos were eclipsed by the fact that inhaling it appeared to be behind many slow, painful deaths. To this day, asbestos is a threat to everyone from those who inhaled it growing up to 9/11 rescue workers.

This makes removing it from homes, businesses, and professional sports arenas beneficial for human health. Such action requires specific skills; skills one can learn at places like the Environmental Compliance Training school in Massachusetts. Upon completion of the courses, a certificate is awarded, and the graduate goes on to aid in the righting of an historical wrong.

Or you could skip the training altogether and just buy a degree from the school's president, Albania Deleon. She'd made a habit of selling graduate credentials to illegal immigrants who hadn't actually finished (or started) the program. The scam, which included paying the workers under the table after job placement, was saving her $1 million.

When her plan was discovered, she did the logical thing and fled the country two days before her court date in 2009, becoming the first woman to be a wanted EPA fugitive. But now, after being found in the Dominican Republic, Deleon faces extradition.

It's a classic tale of a person prospering in the face of human suffering, a perfect reflection of the corruption that deepens our struggles to protect the environment, a solid post-Election Day reminder of how much further we can sink. It's also a message to other environmental criminals: Watch out, or the EPA will come for you too.

--Justin Klugh

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