WILMINGTON - United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court today Senior United States District Judge James C. Fox sentenced ANGEL DARIO RODRIGUEZ NUNEZ, 30, of Durham, North Carolina, to 5 years of probation with a special condition of 6 months house arrest and a $500 fine. The sentence reflected a reduction for NUNEZ cooperation in the on-going investigation.
“Falsifying vehicle emission inspections directly undermines the Clean Air Act’s goal to protect and enhance our Nation’s air resources. This prosecution reflects that corruption among licensed inspectors that perpetrates pollution for personal monetary gain will not be tolerated,” said Mr. Walker.
A Criminal Information was filed on March 6, 2012, charging NUNEZ with conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and making a material false statement, representation, or certification, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 7413(c)(2)(A). On April 9, 2012, NUNEZ pled guilty to the charges.
According to the Criminal Information, NUNEZ worked at both Express Auto Sales, in Durham, North Carolina, and Services and Car Care Express Auto Sales and Services, also in Durham, North Carolina, as a licensed North Carolina emissions inspector. From May, 2009, to July, 2010, NUNEZ conspired with others to pass vehicles that would normally have failed the emissions inspection in exchange for $150 to $225 per car.
The Information further alleges that NUNEZ and his co-conspirators would enter the vehicle identification number either manually or by scanning. A surrogate vehicle, usually one manufactured between 1996 and 1999 that would not generate a vehicle identification number when connected to the analyzer, would be selected. Using the surrogate vehicle, an emissions report would be generated for the customer’s vehicle. During this period 817 vehicles passed the false inspection. Of those 817, NUNEZ falsely tested 353.
Each day emissions inspection reports are electronically transferred to the North Carolina Office of Information and Technology Services in Raleigh, North Carolina. The United States Environmental Protection Agency requires the State to conduct vehicle emissions testing in certain areas because the areas exceed national standards for carbon monoxide and ozone.
“Cheating on emissions tests damages the air we breathe and puts businesses that do things the right way at an unfair disadvantage,” said Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose department includes the NC SBI. “We’re working closely with our state and federal partners to crack down on these illegal polluters.”
“Americans have a right to breathe clean air, free from excessive vehicle emissions,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in North Carolina. “In order to protect the public from harmful air pollutants, governments must have accurate and honest vehicle emissions tests. This case is an excellent example of government agencies working together to protect both the public and the environment.”
Investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations; and the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, License and Theft Bureau. Assistant United States Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is prosecuting the case.