(The following is a reformatted version of a press release
issued by The U.S. Justice Department and received via
electronic mail. The release was confirmed by the sender.)
MAY 17, 2013
INDIVIDUAL SENTENCED TO 57 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR ID FRAUD AND
IMPERSONATING AN OSHA OFFICIAL IN WAKE OF GULF OIL SPILL
Connie Knight Conducted Fraudulent Hazardous Waste Safety
Training for those Seeking Employment in Oil Spill Cleanup
WASHINGTON - Connie M. Knight, 47, previously of Belle Chasse,
La., was sentenced to serve 57 months in prison in New Orleans
federal court late yesterday for providing fraudulent hazardous
waste safety training in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon
explosion and spill, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant
Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and
Natural Resources Division, and Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for
the Eastern District of Louisiana. In addition, Ms. Knight was
ordered to pay victim restitution in the amount 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,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the
Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Department of
Justice is committed to environmental justice and will
vigorously prosecute those who victimize vulnerable
“Knight took advantage of an environmental disaster and the
resulting vulnerabilities of an immigrant community,” said U.S.
Attorney Boente. “Her callous crime focused on her financial
gain, ignoring the potential harm to the restoration of the
Louisiana coastal region.”
On Jan. 24, 2013, Knight pleaded guilty to three felony criminal
charges and one misdemeanor criminal charge for creating false
identification documents and impersonating a federal official.
Court documents explained how, in the wake of the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill, Knight impersonated a high-ranking
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hazardous
waste safety instructor and inspector in order to collect money
from individuals who hoped to work on the cleanup effort that
followed the spill. Knight created and used multiple false
federal identifications to bolster her credibility as an OSHA
employee and to convince attendees, who were primarily from the
Southeast Asian fishing community, that she could ensure them
lucrative employment cleaning the spill. In reality, Knight did
not have any connection to OSHA, to the cleanup effort, nor did
she have training in hazardous waste safety.
Daniel R. Petrole, Deputy Inspector General for the U.S.
Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General stated,
“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.”
“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,” said Cynthia Giles,
Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and
Knight claimed her classes satisfied the various safety
requirements that all individuals were to complete in order to
be employed at a Deepwater Horizon hazardous waste cleanup site.
Her fraudulent classes, however, lasted as little as two hours,
while the legitimate certifications would take at least six days
of classroom training followed by three days of on-site
training. At least some attendees later gained access to
hazardous waste cleanup sites based on the fraudulent
certifications created by Knight.
“OSHA will not tolerate fraudulent training or unscrupulous
activity when workers’ health and lives may be at stake,” said
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
Dr. David Michaels. “Inadequate training jeopardizes the safety
and health of workers cleaning up hazardous waste sites.”
At the sentencing, Federal District Court Judge Lance Africk
considered statements from victims who recounted how Knight
targeted the Southeast Asian fishing communities in southern
Louisiana, many of whom did not speak or read English. Court
documents explained that because many shrimp grounds were closed
from the time of the spill through late 2010, Gulf fishermen had
to seek other means of employment. To gain access to these
fishermen and their families, 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
According to court documents, Knight required each attendee to
pay between $150 and $300 cash to enter a class, and there were
at least 950 victims in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
After a short presentation in English, Knight would provide
false completion certifications and tell attendees to ready
their vessels for BP cleanup work, which she claimed would be
coming any day.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor
Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, with
assistance from the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, the FBI, investigators from the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Plaquemines Parish,
La., Sheriff’s office.
The case was prosecuted by Patrick M. Duggan of the
Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s
Environment and Natural Resources Division and Emily K.
Greenfield of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern
District of Louisiana.
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
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