Emissions Inspectors at Vehicle Inspection Stations in Arlington, Texas, Admit Falsifying Texas State Emissions Test Results
DALLAS — Six individuals have pleaded guilty in federal court to their respective roles in falsifying Texas state emissions tests at two state-certified inspections stations in Arlington, Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
The Clean Air Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect the public health and welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. Areas that exceed the NAAQS are known as “nonattainment areas.” Depending on the amount of pollution that exceeds the standards, areas are classified as marginal, moderate, serious, severe or extreme. The North Texas Region that includes Dallas and Tarrant counties, is classified as a “serious” nonattainment area by the EPA. Vehicles are required to pass annual inspections to ensure that their emissions do not exceed limits for hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and other compounds.
Nghiem Van Tran, 54, and Nghi Cong Tran, 32, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act. If the Court accepts their pleas, in accordance with the terms of their plea agreements, Nghiem Van Tran, who entered his guilty plea this week, and Nghi Cong Tran each face a 16-month sentence and a $250,000 fine.
Dahn Cong Tran, 26, Ngan Tien Tran, 29, Bich Dong Ngo, 26, and Huy Ngoc Nguyen, 26, each pleaded guilty to one count of making a Clean Air Act false statement. The false statement convictions carry a maximum statutory sentence of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine. All of the defendants are residents of Arlington, Texas, and remain on bond pending sentencing hearings beginning later this month.
According to documents filed in the case, the inspection stations, Mike’s Autocare, located on North Mesquite Street in Arlington and Tommy Tech, located on Peach Street in Arlington, performed approximately 7,656 fraudulent emissions tests between August 2009 and March 2011. The defendants circumvented the required emissions testing procedures by substituting vehicles that would pass the emissions test in place of vehicles that had previously failed or showed equipment malfunctions. In most instances, the vehicle needing an emissions test was not present at Mike’s or Tommy Tech when the emissions tests were conducted, and the defendants who conducted the fraudulent tests received the necessary identifying vehicle information from Nghiem Van Tran and Nghi Cong Tran via a text message or a handwritten slip of paper. The defendants generated fraudulent emissions certificates and transmitted fraudulent testing results to the Texas Information Management System (TIMS) database managed by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The defendants demanded up to $80 for each fraudulent test, well above the state-mandated maximum charge of $39.75. Proceeds from the fraudulent emissions tests were deposited into a bank account for “Upland Investment,” which was controlled by Nghiem Van Tran.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; the Texas Department of Public Safety; and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Civil Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen P. Fahey is in charge of the prosecution.
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