ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Today, U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Carleton Metcalf sentenced Ana Yorling Rugama Sanchez, 28, of Memphis, Tennessee, to two years of probation and a fine of $1,500, and Jose Carlos “Victor” Pena Lopez, 51, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to one year of probation and a fine of $1,000, for their roles in creating false asbestos training certifications, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Charles Carfagno, Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) joins U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.
“Sanchez and Pena Lopez failed in their duty to ensure that workers handling asbestos receive proper training on how to safely and legally dispose of this toxic substance,” said U.S. Attorney King. “We will continue to work closely with the EPA to hold accountable those who skirt our environmental laws and jeopardize public health.”
“The failure to properly train asbestos workers and then to issue them false asbestos training certificates places the worker and the general public at an increased risk of asbestos exposure. Today’s sentencing demonstrates that anyone who intentionally violates the law and puts the public at risk will be held responsible for their actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Carfagno.
According to filed documents and court proceedings, the Toxic Substances Control Act regulates asbestos and other toxic substances, as well as the training and certification of professionals who handle such substances. Sanchez was employed with NovaCor Consulting Group, LLC (NovaCor) as an asbestos training coordinator at the company’s Concord, North Carolina location. Pena Lopez also worked for NovaCor as an asbestos abatement supervisor and an asbestos worker trainer accredited in the State of North Carolina. Court documents show that in June 2018, at Sanchez’s direction, Pena Lopez signed certificates of course completion for asbestos worker refresher training for individuals he did not instruct and that did not fulfill the required training. The certificates were submitted to regulators in obtaining asbestos worker licenses. Court documents also show that in July 2018, Sanchez also certified training for attendees at a course that did not meet the requirements for certification.
On March 14, 2022, both Pena Lopez and Sanchez entered their guilty pleas to violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney King thanked the EPA-CID and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Health Hazards Control Unit, for their coordination and investigation of the case.
Assistant United States Attorney Steven Kaufman, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.