Two Tacoma business owners entered guilty pleas on Friday in Pierce County Superior Court after Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson leveled multiple charges against them for allegedly selling substandard asbestos worker training courses and certifications.
The business is Environmental Management Training Services LLC.
Timothy Pinckney pleaded guilty to 10 separate charges — six counts of forgery and four counts of making false statements – and Pamela Pepper, Pinckney’s business partner, pleaded guilty to five separate charges, including three counts of forgery, one count of making a false statement, and one count of official misconduct by a notary public.
Ferguson’s office alleged that from 2010 to 2013, EMT charged a fee to provide required asbestos training to students, but the company then failed to provide the required training, or provided no training at all. The company would then certify to employers and to state regulators the workers were trained as required, according to Ferguson’s office.
“Substandard and fraudulent training of asbestos workers poses an obvious and substantial risk to public health and safety,” Ferguson said in a statement. “This is exactly the type of misconduct my environmental crimes team seeks to deter.”
The Criminal Investigation Division of the federal Environmental Protection Agency led the investigation, assisted by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Training to handle asbestos a hazardous substance and known carcinogen, requires a 32-hour course. State and federal law require any person seeking accreditation as an asbestos worker to complete four eight-hour days of training, which must include lectures, demonstrations, hands-on training and individual respirator fit testing. The student must then pass a closed-book examination, and certified workers must also take annual refresher courses.
Based on the joint investigation, the state alleged EMT was selling its training certificates without ensuring workers took the required training and passed the required tests. The state alleged Pinckney sometimes cut the length of the class sessions to as little as 30 minutes in length, provided answers to the closed-book examinations, or simply took payment in exchange for certifying a worker had attended the course and passed the test when the worker did not.
Pinckney and Pepper then certified that students were trained as required and charged their employers for the training, the state alleged. Pinckney and Pepper also submitted certification applications claiming students had successfully completed the required training and passed the examination when they knew the workers had not, according to investigators.
As part of the plea, Pinckney and Pepper provided information that assisted in tracking down the workers and companies who sought to obtain fraudulent training certificates. This investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected, according to the attorney general’s office.
Pinckney was sentenced to four months confinement and required to forfeit his asbestos course teaching credentials. Pepper was sentenced to two months confinement and revocation of her notary license.