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Asbestos Remediation Firm Owner Pleads Guilty In Fake Asbestos Training Scam
Rogelio Lowe, aka Roger Lowe, has pled guilty to two counts of mail fraud, according to federal prosecutors.
The plea, offered on Friday, July 30, has Lowe, the owner of E&D Environmental Safety Training Inc. of Hayward, California, admitting that he duped his students by providing classes that didn’t meet federal standards for asbestos remediation training.
Lowe, of Thornton (San Joaquin County), who operated the training classes from 2007 to 2009, shorting his paying students not only on the required number of classes to complete the required training, but also cut the classes from a mandatory eight hours to a half-hour each day, provided the answers to closed-book examinations, and forged tests and results for students who failed to attend. The cost of the courses ran as high as $600, many of the fees paid by employers.
Lowe also issued asbestos remediation training completion certificates to his students, and submitted their names to state authorities knowing they were inadequately prepared for asbestos remediation.
This fraud extended to the annual refresher courses which Lowe also conducted, and from which Lowe submitted names to the California Division of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). The submission caused Cal/OSHA authorities to add the names to its list of state-qualified asbestos workers, even though many did not know what they were doing.
The problem, of course, is that some of these untrained/undertrained asbestos workers may have endangered both their own future health and the health of the public by not knowing the proper procedures to follow when working with asbestos.
For example, workers who fail to wear respirators around friable (broken, crumbled or dusty) asbestos run the risk of inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers, which can lead to asbestosis, small cell (and non-small cell) lung tumors, and mesothelioma, a unique cancer of the mesothelial linings that surround and protect the lungs, heart and abdominal organs.
Asbestosis, a progressive respiratory disease similar to COPD or emphysema, is unpleasant and debilitating, but not often lethal in and of itself, and the lung cancers precipitated by asbestos fibers are as treatable as any other form of lung cancer (that is, a survival rate of 15 percent after 5 years; 10.6 percent after 10 years, etc.).
Mesothelioma is another story. It tends to remain dormant for a long time – sometimes up to 50 years – without producing any remarkable symptoms. But once the dormancy period is over, symptoms become more definitive and the cancer itself becomes highly aggressive, rapidly affecting progressively more vital tissue, and organs.
By the time doctors diagnose mesothelioma, most cases have advanced so far that patients are given about a year to live, and this prognosis is only marginally improved by aggressive therapies like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, alone or in combination, which are delivered primarily as palliative therapy in any case.
For Lowe, the sentencing – scheduled for December 2 in San Francisco District Court – could mean a fine of up to 40 years in prison (e.g., 20 years each count) and a maximum fine of $500,000 (or $250,000 on each count).
Lowe, who has been described as a “good guy who made a mistake”,
continues to run his company while out on a $50,000 bond, but his asbestos
training license has been revoked. Nine more counts on which he was originally
charged have been dismissed as part of Lowe’s plea agreement.