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Environmental Crimes Bulletin August 2023 Week 1

In this issue:

United States v. Sinister Mfg. Company, Inc., No. 2:23-CR-00168 (E.D. Calif.), ECS Senior Counsel Kris Dighe, ECS Trial Attorney Stephen Foster, and AUSA Katherine Lydon

Pollution from truck


On August 1, 2023, Sinister Mfg. Company, Inc. (Sinister) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act (CAA) and defraud the United States, and to violating the CAA by tampering with a monitoring device (18 U.S.C. § 371; 42 U.S.C. § 7413 (c)(2)(C)). The company has agreed to pay a $500,000 criminal fine and fully comply with the terms of a civil Consent Decree. Sentencing is scheduled for November 14, 2023.

Between 2010 and April 2020, Sinister manufactured and sold parts for use with primarily diesel trucks, to enable “deleting” the trucks’ emissions controls systems by removing or disabling them. Sinister often sold its products as part of “delete kits,” sometimes bundled with “delete tunes.” The delete tunes were software produced by another company that could alter a diesel truck’s on-board computer to allow the truck to appear to run normally. Through its employees, Sinister reached agreements with other companies that manufactured tuners or tuning platforms to sell their products bundled together.

Though the company sometimes labeled its delete products for “racing” and included disclaimers in marketing materials indicating that its products should be used only in off-road settings, the company knew most of its delete products were purchased by diesel truck drivers who drove on public roads, not racetracks.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

United States v. Emiliano Rodriguez, No. 2:22-CR-00030 (E.D. Pa.), AUSA Mary Beth Leahy

On August 3, 2023, a court sentenced auto mechanic Emiliano Rodriguez to one day of incarceration, followed by 36 months’ supervised release, to include 21 months of home detention. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to violating the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act in connection with a scheme to install counterfeit airbags in motor vehicles (49 U.S.C. § 46312).

In September 2019, Rodriguez caused counterfeit airbag inflators, intentionally mislabeled as "metal bracket" and "plastic panel," to be shipped from China to Philadelphia by air without proper hazardous materials classifications, labeling, and packaging, in violation of DOT's hazardous materials regulations. Counterfeit airbags have consistently malfunctioned in multiple ways, ranging from non-deployment to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with assistance from Customs and Border Protection, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

United States v. Carlos T. Ortiz, No. 2:23-MJ-00017 (E.D. Calif.), AUSA Justin Lee

On August 4, 2023, a court sentenced Carlos T. Ortiz to pay a $1,000 fine and complete a three-year term of probation after pleading guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. § 703). Ortiz is also banned from hunting while under supervision.

Ortiz helped organize and participated in a 10-person goose hunt near the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge in Sutter County, California. During the hunt, Ortiz and others shot and killed 258 snow geese and white-fronted geese. Snow geese and white-fronted geese are migratory game birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. None of the birds were properly tagged as required by law.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted the investigation.

Environmental Crimes Bulletin

Updated December 6, 2023