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Audrey Strauss, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Larry Starfield, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), announced today that the United States has filed a civil lawsuit against Cayman Islands-based EZ LYNK, SEZC (“EZ LYNK”), a related company, PRESTIGE WORLDWIDE, SEZC (“PRESTIGE”), and their U.S.-based founders and owners, BRADLEY GINTZ and THOMAS WOOD (collectively, “Defendants”). The lawsuit alleges that Defendants manufacture and sell a defeat device designed to permit car and truck owners to remove computerized emissions controls in violation of the Clean Air Act. The complaint also alleges that EZ LYNK, GINTZ, and WOOD violated the Clean Air Act by refusing to provide EPA with information about the manufacture, sale, and use of EZ LYNK’s defeat device.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Emissions controls on cars and trucks protect the public from harmful effects of air pollution. EZ Lynk has put the public’s health at risk by manufacturing and selling devices intended to disable those emissions controls. Through our lawsuit, we will prevent Defendants from continuing to sell this product and impose civil penalties to hold them to account.”
EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield stated: “EZ Lynk refused to cooperate with EPA’s investigation, and all the while continued to sell aftermarket defeat devices that resulted in harmful air pollution. This is not acceptable and EPA will work diligently with the Department of Justice to stop the illegal activities and ensure that EZ Lynk complies with the Clean Air Act.”
The complaint filed in Manhattan federal court today alleges that for more than four years, Defendants violated the Clean Air Act’s prohibition on defeat devices. Among other things, the complaint alleges the following:
The Clean Air Act requires motor vehicle manufacturers to design vehicles to meet detailed standards for limiting the emission of harmful air pollutants, which are linked to premature death and cause heart and lung disease, heart attacks, and aggravated asthma, among other serious illnesses. To achieve these limitations, vehicles contain both hardware components and software that work together to maintain vehicle emissions within legal limits. The Clean Air Act makes it illegal to manufacture, sell, offer to sell, or cause to be sold any part or component that has a principal effect of defeating emissions controls, if the defendant knew or had reason to know the product is put to this use.
EZ LYNK manufactures and sells a product permitting drivers to “delete” computerized emissions controls in their vehicles, in violation of the Clean Air Act. Referred to as the “EZ Lynk System,” this product consists of three components: the Auto Agent, which is a physical device that plugs into vehicle computer systems to install software designed to “delete” emissions controls; the EZ Lynk Cloud, which is a cloud computing platform that stores the deletion software; and the Auto Agent App, a smartphone application that connects the Auto Agent to the EZ Lynk Cloud, allowing customers to acquire and install deletion software through their smartphones. EZ LYNK has sold its product to thousands of drivers across the United States.
EZ LYNK also knows and has reason to know that the principal effect and use of this product is to defeat emission controls. Among other things, EZ LYNK maintains an online “EZ Lynk Forum” on social media to encourage and assist drivers looking to disable their vehicle emissions controls using the EZ Lynk System. Hundreds of drivers have visited the EZ Lynk Forum to post their experiences “deleting” emissions controls using the EZ Lynk System. EZ LYNK representatives have explicitly approved many of the posts, and in some instances have offered technical support to drivers disabling emissions controls. For example:
In fact, some drivers have used the same EZ Lynk Forum maintained by EZ LYNK to urge others to keep quiet about their use of the EZ Lynk System to defeat emissions controls. For instance, one driver wrote, “If everyone keeps their mouth shut about deleting sooner or later the EPA will calm down.” Since the EZ Lynk System launched in mid-2016, EZ LYNK has manufactured and/or sold at least tens of thousands of EZ Lynk Systems.
Defendants GINTZ and WOOD own EZ LYNK and control, direct, and manage the marketing and sale of the EZ Lynk System as well as the technical support for the EZ Lynk System. Defendant PRESTIGE, which is also owned by GINTZ and WOOD, facilitates EZ LYNK’s sale of the EZ Lynk System in the United States by purchasing the Auto Agent devices from EZ Lynk and selling them onward to distributors that sell the devices within the United States.
EZ LYNK’s illegal activity has been compounded by its refusal to provide EPA with basic information about the manufacture, sale, and use of the EZ Lynk System. The Clean Air Act requires manufacturers like EZ LYNK to provide information that EPA may reasonably require to determine whether the manufacturer’s product complies with the Clean Air Act. As alleged in the complaint, despite repeated requests, EZ LYNK has refused to provide EPA with much of the requested information about the manufacture, sale, and use of the EZ Lynk System. EZ LYNK’s efforts to stymie EPA’s investigation also violate the Clean Air Act.
In its complaint, the United States seeks an injunction barring the sale of the EZ Lynk System, the assessment of civil penalties against all Defendants, and other relief.
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Ms. Strauss thanked the attorneys in EPA’s Air Enforcement Division and program staff at EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality for their critical work on this case. Ms. Strauss also thanked Nicole Veilleux, Senior Counsel in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, for her assistance.
This case is being handled by the Environmental Protection Unit of the Office’s Civil Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mónica Folch and Jennifer Jude are in charge of the case.
James Margolin, Nicholas Biase