The U.S. Attorney in New Orleans says a contractor has plead guilty to a theft charge for defrauding a Louisiana school system out of more than $200,000. Federal prosecutors alleged that from 2015 to 2017, a Louisiana asbestos abatement inspector submitted false asbestos reports to Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish School Board (TPSB.) The charges alleged that not only were lab reports faked, but the signature of an accredited asbestos inspector was forged.
Filing false asbestos reports is a federal crime
Prosecutors alleged this is not the first time he falsified documents. In 2013, the same individual received 12 months’ probation and was required to pay $3,040. to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and a $100 fine when he plead guilty to falsifying documents provided to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ.)
When the 12 months of probation were completed, the defendant began contracting work for the TPSB. Federal charges allege that fabricated asbestos laboratory reports were filed for fees totaling approximately $212,618.26. These funds came in part from federal funds provided to the TPSB.
A sentencing hearing is set for December 16, 2020..
Why is this crime important?
If the reports were falsified, that means for at least two years testing was not performed at schools in Terrebonne Parish. Many older school buildings have at least some asbestos – ceiling tiles, insulation, mastic and more. Left undisturbed, these products do not pose a health hazard. But, if there is remodeling or repair, fibers can be released into the air leading to inhalation.
There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Over two years, there was a potential for work which disturbed existing asbestos containing products. Improper asbestos abatement with no air monitoring is dangerous and creates a health risk. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and even low level exposures can increase the risk for development of mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
What can you do to prevent false asbestos abatement reports?
Whether responsible for a school district, business, or your own home, check credentials of anyone monitoring, abating, or working on a building that possibly has asbestos. Any building built before 1980 should be tested for the presence of asbestos-containing materials before major remodeling or demolition work.