Guilty Plea in OSHA Impersonation Case

Connie M. Knight pleaded guilty to three felony charges and a misdemeanor charge that she created fall documents in order to deliver hazardous waste training to people seeking to work in oil spill cleanup.

Connie M. Knight, 46, previously of Belle Chasse, La., pleaded guilty in a New Orleans federal court Jan. 24 to three felony criminal charges and one misdemeanor criminal charge for creating false identification documents and impersonating a federal official. 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, announced the plea in a release saying Knight's plea agreement explained she had impersonated a high-ranking OSHA hazardous waste safety instructor and inspector in order to collect money from people hoping to work on the cleanup after the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Knight created a false federal ID badge stating she was an OSHA Master Level V Instructor and Inspector, even though there is no such OSHA designation. She created false federal badges for her employees; these people were residents of Southeast Asian fishing communities in Southern Louisiana, and they believed they were working for OSHA, according to the release.

The employees also provided a way for Knight to contact those communities. The release says Knight required each attendee to pay between $150 and $400 cash to enter a class. Her classes "lasted as little as two hours, while the legitimate certifications would take at least six days of classroom training and three days of on-site training. Though many of her attendees were Vietnamese, Laotian or Cambodian, Knight spoke only English at the classes, and all materials were in English. At least some attendees later gained access to hazardous waste cleanup sites based on the fraudulent certifications created by Knight," the release explains.

Producing fraudulent federal ID documents carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, and possessing a fraudulent federal ID document carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $100,000. Each of two counts of falsely impersonating a federal employee carries a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from OSHA, the FBI, and investigators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Plaquemines Parish, La., Sheriff's office.

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