HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — An environmental training instructor was sentenced Wednesday by a U.S. District Judge in Hartford.
Guido A. Cortes Rodriguez, 65 of West Haven, was found guilty of falsely certifying the completion of asbestos abatement courses. He was sentenced to two years of probation, the first six months of which he must serve in home confinement.
According to court documents, Cortes was a training instructor at North Star Center for Human Development. North Star is an organization that offers a variety of training courses and certification to those working with lead paint and asbestos.
Court documents say on Dec. 16, 2015, Cortes sent a notice to the Connecticut Department of Public Health about upcoming training courses being held at the North Star’s facility in Hartford. Cortes was the training manager and primary course instructor for these courses.
The court says an undercover FBI agent tried to attend one of these courses under a fake identity seeking a lead abatement worker initial course completion certificate. To obtain certification, an individual must successfully complete an approved 40-hour asbestos abatement supervisor initial training course.
The agent skipped the first three days of the course before attending one. According to courts, when he did attend one of the courses, the agent realized that no course was being conducted at North Star that day, and that no classes had been held there for weeks. The agent called Cortes who agreed to meet him at the North Star facility the following day.
When meeting with Cortes, he provided a list of items he would need from the agent, including his name, mailing address, Social Security number, a photo, and $1,260.
The agent returned to Cortes office later that day with items he wanted. After filling out paperwork and answering questions, the agent received three certificates: A 40-Hour Asbestos Abatement Supervisor Initial Certification, a 32-Hour Lead Abatement Working Initial Certification, and an OSHA 1-Hour Construction Safety Training Course.
According to court documents, the agent attended no classes taught by Cortes at North Star, receiving no training, and did not take any examinations. Officials say further investigation showed that Cortes was providing fraudulent training certificates on multiple occasions.
Tyler C. Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in New England says the certification of providers is something they will continue to watch over. Amon stated,
Asbestos and lead removal training providers are entrusted with keeping safe the supervisors, workers and the public that hire them. Trainers who cheat and provide false certificates will continue to be a focus for EPA enforcement since they pose too great a risk to the public health.”