Emissions Inspectors at Vehicle Inspection Stations in Arlington, Texas, Sentenced for Falsifying Texas State Emissions Test Results
DALLAS — Six residents of Arlington, Texas, who pleaded guilty to their respective roles in falsifying Texas state emissions tests at two state-certified inspections stations in Arlington, have been sentenced, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
“Everyone has a right to breathe clean air, free from excessive vehicle emissions,” said Ivan Vikin, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Texas. “In order to protect the public from harmful air pollutants, governments must have accurate and honest vehicle emissions tests. The defendants generated thousands of fraudulent inspections and certificates and cynically lined their pockets as they thumbed their noses at our nation’s environmental laws. This is one of the largest vehicle emission fraud cases in the country and is an excellent example of government agencies working together to protect both the public and the environment.”
“I commend the excellent investigative work by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; the Texas Department of Public Safety; and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,” said U.S. Attorney Saldaña. “As these convictions illustrate, this office, in partnership with these agencies, will aggressively prosecute those who deliberately ignore the nation’s Clean Air Act.”
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 “non-attainment 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” non-attainment 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, who each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn to 15 months in federal prison. In addition, Nghiem Van Tran was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
Ngan Tien Tran, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of making a Clean Air Act false statement and was sentenced by Judge Lynn to 12 months in federal prison.
Dahn Cong Tran, 26, Bich Dong Ngo, 26, and Huy Ngoc Nguyen, 26, were each sentenced to 12 months of probation, following each of their guilty pleas to one count of making a Clean Air Act false statement. Judge Lynn ordered that Danh Cong Tran’s probation include eight months of home confinement.
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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen P. Fahey prosecuted.
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