NEW ORLEANS — A 46-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to federal charges that accuse her of posing as a federal worker to make nearly $216,000 giving fraudulent training classes to fishermen who hoped to get jobs cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico oil leak in 2010.
Connie M. Knight was living in Belle Chasse when the crimes occurred, but currently lives in Wiggins, Miss.
According to a plea agreement announced Thursday, Knight impersonated a high-ranking Occupational Safety and Health Administration hazardous waste safety instructor and inspector in order to collect money from people who hoped to work on the cleanup effort that followed the leak.
Knight also created false federal identification badges for her employees, who believed that they were working for OSHA and lived in southern Louisiana fishing communities. Knight held fake seminars and assured attendees that they would get lucrative employment working on the Deepwater Horizon oil leak cleanup once they paid between $150 and $400 and completed her course.
Knight’s 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 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.
Knight faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for producing fraudulent federal identification documents. Possessing such documents carries up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The two counts of falsely impersonating a federal employee each carry up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.