ATLANTA – Jerome Clarence Barnes, Jr. and Jared F. Walker have been sentenced in federal court for their roles in a scheme to fraudulently issue emissions certificates for cars that would have failed the emissions inspection required by law.
“Barnes sold his position as a licensed emissions inspector when he took payoffs to issue fake emissions certificates for cars that should have failed the test,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of the federal EPA and state EPD criminal investigators, this case has put an end to Barnes’ fraudulent scheme and, as a result, removed a persistent threat to Atlanta’s air quality and public health.”
“Violators who submit false reports or incorrect data undermine EPA’s commitment to protect clean air for all Americans,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Georgia. “Unfortunately, this case was not an isolated incident; defendant Barnes has a history of this type of criminal behavior. Today’s sentencing demonstrates that those who try to save money by cutting corners will be held responsible for their crimes. EPA will continue working with its law enforcement partners to protect the public and the environment.”
“The vehicle emissions program is important to Georgia’s air quality. EPD works hard to make sure stations and inspectors are performing the tests correctly and complying with the law,” said Jud Turner, Director of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division. “We appreciate DOJ, EPA and other law enforcement agencies working with us to investigate and prosecute Mr. Barnes and others like him who circumvent the program.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Barnes, 35, of Lithia Springs, Ga., was responsible for issuing over 4,000 fraudulent emissions certificates to car owners in Georgia from September 2011 to September 2012, falsely stating that the owners’ cars passed the required emissions test. Barnes worked with other individuals to open emissions inspection stations in their names that he would then use to issue fraudulent emissions certificates. Opening stations in others’ names helped conceal Barnes’ involvement in the fraudulent activity. He wanted to avoid detection because he previously owned two inspection stations that state authorities had shut down for fraud. When authorities would discover emissions fraud occurring at one of the inspection stations, Barnes continued the fraud at another station that was opened under the name of a different owner. During the scheme, Barnes used On Time Emissions in Fulton County, All Clean Emissions in Cobb County, BDH Emissions in Dekalb County, Elite Emissions in Fulton County, and Cleaner Atlanta Emissions in Cobb County, to conduct fraudulent emissions testing.
Walker, 35, of Austell, Ga., owned All Clean Emissions. He and co-defendants Ieka N. Jones, 33, of Winston, Ga., and Seretha Franklin, 36, of Villa Rica, Ga., were licensed emissions inspectors who worked with Barnes to issue passing emissions certificates to car owners whose cars would have otherwise failed the emissions test. Instead of connecting the owners’ real cars to the emissions equipment, the defendants connected different cars 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 charged $100 to $125 for a fraudulent emissions test, far more than the usual amount charged for a legitimate inspection. Georgia law prohibits inspection stations from charging more than $25 for an emissions test.
Barnes was sentenced by United States District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. to four years and six months in federal prison and three years of supervised release. Walker was sentenced to six months in federal prison and one year of supervised release. On September 6, 2013, Barnes pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud by depriving the State of Georgia and its citizens of their right to his honest services as a licensed emissions inspector. That same day, Walker pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Clean Air Act. On September 30, 2013, Jones and Franklin each pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Clean Air Act. Sentencing for Jones and Franklin is scheduled for December 20, 2013, before Judge Batten.
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.
This case was 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 prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.