Woman accused of posing as OSHA trainer; bilked fisherman for $200K+

WIGGINS — A Mississippi woman is accused 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 spill in 2010.

A 22-count federal indictment unsealed yesterday alleges that Connie M. Knight, 46, used phony credentials, diplomas and certifications to con more than 1,000 people out of $150 to $300 each from August through December 2010. She should forfeit at least $215,800, it said.

Knight forged herself credentials as a “Master Level V Inspector and Instructor” from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and told people she was the agency’s highest-ranking female trainer, according to the indictment.

She allegedly targeted fishermen from Southeast Asia, many of whom could not read or speak English, at a time when many fisheries were closed and fishermen were being hired for spill cleanup. Hazardous waste safety training was required for that work.

Neither the indictment nor a news release said whether Knight was multilingual or hired interpreters to communicate with people who couldn’t speak English; a Justice Department spokesman said he couldn’t comment about anything that wasn’t in the indictment.

She allegedly created false OSHA ID badges for four members of southeast Louisiana fishing communities whom she hired. The indictment identified but did not charge them.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice news release, Knight was then living in Belle Chasse, but arrested yesterday at her current home in Wiggins.

She was charged with 19 counts of impersonating a federal employee, one of possessing a fraudulent federal identification document, and one each of producing and of transferring such documents.

The maximum sentence for possessing a fake federal ID is a year in prison and a $5,000 fine. The other charges all carry a maximum fine of $250,000; producing and transferring phony federal IDs each has a maximum term of 15 years in prison; impersonating a federal employee carries up to three years.

She was scheduled to appear yesterday in federal court in New Orleans. Online court documents did not indicate yesterday whether she remained in custody.

 

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