EMISSIONS INSPECTORS INDICTED ON CLEAN AIR ACT VIOLATIONS
February 28, 2011
Indicted Defendants Fraudulently Certified More Than 1,400 Cars
That Would Have Failed Emissions Test
ATLANTA, GA - JACKIE BAKER, 52, of Atlanta, Georgia, JAMES HINTON, 41, of Riverdale, Georgia, and MICHAEL KELLY, 40, of Atlanta, Georgia have been indicted on federal charges for fraudulently issuing emissions certificates to hundreds of cars that would have failed the emissions inspection required by law. James Hinton was arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge C. Christopher Hagy.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “Environmental crimes threaten the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the world we’ll leave to future generations. Over a five-month period, these three defendants allegedly issued over 1,400 fraudulent emissions certificates to cars that would have failed the emissions inspection required by the Clean Air Act and Georgia law, in exchange for under-the-table payments of $100 to $125. This kind of shortsighted greed results in long-term damage, causing the ongoing release of dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere and damaging Atlanta’s air quality. The defendants have lost their inspection licenses and now face federal charges.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: BAKER, HINTON, and KELLY were licensed emissions inspectors working at a “Stop N Shop” in College Park, Georgia through May 2009, when they lost their licenses. During the five-month period from January to May 2009, the defendants allegedly issued over 1,400 fraudulent emissions certificates to car owners, falsely stating that the owners’ cars had passed the required emissions test. Instead of connecting the owners’ real cars to the emissions equipment, however, the defendants connected different cars that they knew would pass the test. During the tests, the computer system automatically transmitted emissions testing data to a statewide database accessible by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The defendants manually entered other information into the system, such as the make, model, and vehicle identification number, to make it appear that they were testing the owners’ real cars, many of which had already failed an emissions test or showed equipment malfunctions. The defendants allegedly charged $100 to $125 for a fraudulent emissions test, far more than the usual $20 they charged for a legitimate inspection. Georgia law prohibits inspection stations from charging more than $25 for an emissions test.
The Clean Air Act is a federal law that authorizes the United States Environmental Protection Agency to establish air quality standards to protect public health and welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. As required by the Act, the State of Georgia has established a vehicle emissions testing program that requires cars in several counties be inspected to ensure that their emissions do not exceed limits for hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and other compounds. With certain exceptions, car owners must submit an emissions certificate to obtain their annual vehicle registration. The Clean Air Act prohibits making false statements in records, including emissions certificates and database records, that are required to be maintained by the Act.
The defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury on February 22, 2011. The 119-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy and Clean Air Act violations. The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, and each Clean Air Act count carries a maximum sentence of 2 years in prison. Each count also carries a maximum fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division.
Assistant United States Attorney Stephen H. McClain is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney’s Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.