April 3, 2014

Vehicle Emissions Inspector Sentenced to Two Months in Prison for Emissions Fraud. To Date, 14 Defendants Have Been Sentenced for Conducing “Clean Scans”

ATLANTA – A licensed vehicle emissions inspector was sentenced today to serve two months in prison for his role in providing fraudulent passing emissions scores for more than 200 vehicles, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. also sentenced Pedro Salmeron, 37, of Charlotte, to two years of supervised release, the first four months of which he must spend under home confinement. Salmeron was also ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and to a pay a $5,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Special Agent in Charge Maureen O’Mara of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), Atlanta Area Office; Greg McLeod, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI); and Steven M. Watkins, Director of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau (NC DMV L&T).

According to court records and today’s sentencing hearing, Salmeron was employed as a technician for “Carolina Inspections” – also known as “Carolinas Auto Inspection” – located in Charlotte, and was also a vehicle emissions inspector licensed by the state of North Carolina. As a state-licensed emissions inspector, Salmeron was responsible for ensuring the emissions of vehicles he tested met federally mandated emissions requirements. Court records show that from February 2010 through January 2011, Salmeron conducted 201 illegal vehicle emissions inspection and falsely passed vehicles that would have failed emissions inspection. Court records indicate that Salmeron performed these fraudulent tests by entering the information of the vehicle being tested into the state database at Carolinas Auto Inspection, but then connecting the testing equipment to “surrogate” vehicles at the repair shop. The illegal practice of utilizing substitute vehicles for emissions testing is referred to in the industry as “clean scanning.” Salmeron pleaded guilty in August 2012 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act by conducting false vehicle emissions inspections.

The Clean Air Act requires vehicle emission inspections in geographic regions that exceed national ambient air quality standards. According to the EPA, the Charlotte metropolitan area exceeds the 8-hour standard set for Ozone, a potent irritant that can cause lung damage and other types of respiratory problems.

Salmeron was ordered to self-report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

Salmeron is the latest defendant to be sentenced resulting from an investigation of Charlotte-area vehicle emissions inspectors involved in conducing “clean scans.” The multi-agency investigation has netted 14 prosecutions, with defendants serving sentences ranging from 18 months in prison to probation, in addition to home confinement, community service and monetary fines:

  1. Alexander Edwards: sentenced to 60 days in prison, four months of home while serving two years of supervised release, and a $1,000 fine. (3:11-cr-102).
  2. Thanh Long Quoc Nguyen: sentenced to two months of home confinement while serving two years of probation, 50 hours of community service, and a $2,000 fine. (3:11-cr-175).
  3. Jin Sung Chang: sentenced to two years of probation to include six months of home detention, and a $400 special assessment. (3:11-cr-163).
  4. Stephen Dickinson: sentenced to two years of probation and a $1,000 fine. (3:11-cr-101).

U.S. Attorney Tompkins thanked the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, NC SBI’s Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit, and NC DMV License and Theft Bureau, with assistance from the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, Mobile Sources Compliance Branch, for their investigation leading to the 14 prosecutions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven R. Kaufman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte prosecuted the cases.

United States v. Salmeron, 3:12-cr-261.

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