So, an OSHA representative holds classes for mostly unemployed fishermen in southern Louisiana, providing them with essential training they need to get jobs cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the 2010 oil spill. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it certainly would be, if the OSHA trainer was actually an OSHA employee and if the whole thing wasn’t an elaborate ruse designed to exploit disadvantaged communities.
The U.S. Department of Labour and the EPA are investigating the eyebrow-raising case of a Mississippi woman who is accused of using false credentials to convince over 1,000 fisherman to take an “OSHA” training course to get work cleaning the spill. Connie M. Knight allegedly identified herself as a “Master Level V Inspector and Instructor” and the top-ranking female trainer from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration when she attempted to get fishermen across the area to pay $100 to $300 to take the course.
She is also charged with fabricating four additional ID badges for four other local individuals that she hired as employees (it’s unclear whether they were in on the scheme or not). Not only that, according to the indictment she specifically targeted members of the region’s Southeast Asian communities who were at a disadvantage insofar as many couldn’t speak or read English very well.
On one level, it’s amusing to think that anyone would attempt such a thing. On another, it was heartless and highly manipulative to take advantage of an underemployed, primarily disadvantaged segment of the population for personal gain. And on a whole other level, it’s serious. Really serious. The accused faces 22 charges that, cumulatively, could net her over 20 years in prison and more than half-a-million dollars in fines.
The simple lesson in all this? Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. It’s not worth it. If you boast the strategic acumen and organizational skills to pull off a ruse like this and actually get away with it (for a while at least), consider applying your talents elsewhere. There are plenty of other lucrative avenues in life where you can prove useful in a totally legal fashion, and in most cases you don’t even have to exploit members of marginalized communities.
(Pictured: Legitimate U.S. Environmental Services contractors deploying an oil boom in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Image courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District External Affairs.)