DALLAS — Michael G. Johnson, 46, formerly of Fort Worth, Texas, was sentenced late yesterday, by U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn, to 28 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $354,529 in restitution, following his guilty plea in January 2014 to felony offenses stemming from an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into violations of the Clean Air Act. The announcement was made today by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Specifically, Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements under the Clean Air Act. He has been in federal custody since his arrest in July 2013 in the Billings, Montana, area.
From 2007 through 2009, Johnson owned and operated System Launch Associates from an apartment in Fort Worth. After 2009, Johnson conducted business from Austin, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Sterling Heights, Michigan; and Miles City, Montana.
Pursuant to the Clean Air Act, manufacturers are prohibited from selling a vehicle or engine that is subject to emission standards unless the vehicle or engine is covered by an EPA-issued Certificate of Conformity. System Launch purported to arrange testing of new vehicles and new vehicle engines for U.S. distributors of foreign-made vehicles. System Launch itself, however, did not perform the testing. In fact, the testing was never done, and Johnson fabricated the testing data.
Johnson instructed his clients to have the vehicles delivered to him or to a test lab he chose, instructing them to pay half of the testing/application fee to him upfront and the remainder when the testing was completed. After Johnson submitted the completed Certificate of Conformity application to the EPA, he provided a copy of the fraudulent vehicle test data to his clients.
From August 2009 through June 2012, Johnson submitted multiple Certificates of Conformity applications containing fraudulent vehicle test data to the EPA and delivered that data to more than a dozen clients. The applications Johnson submitted were approved, and the EPA issued Certificates of Conformity based on fraudulent data he provided.
“False reports or incorrect data undercut EPA’s commitment to protect clean air for all Americans,” said Vernon Jackson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Texas. “EPA and its law enforcement partners will actively pursue those who undermine the integrity of programs designed to protect public health and the environment. This sentence sends a clear message that violators whose actions place the public at risk will be prosecuted.”
“I commend the excellent investigative work of the EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality- Environmental Crimes Unit in unravelling Mr. Johnson’s scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Saldaña. “The enforcement of our nation’s environmental laws is a vital part of our work here.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Errin Martin was in charge of the prosecution.