Multiple Corporate Defendants Sentenced For Clean Air Act Violations
Court Orders Millions of Dollars in Fines for Disabling Emissions Controls on Semi-Trucks
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that two companies and several individuals have been sentenced for violating the Clean Air Act by engaging in an aftermarket scheme to disable the emissions control systems of semi-trucks. U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney confirmed the felony convictions of corporate defendants Accurate Truck Service, LLC, and Griffin Transportation, Inc., both of Grand Rapids, and ordered the businesses to pay a combined maximum fine of $1 million ($500,000 each) and serve a year of probation. Judge Maloney also sentenced the owners of these businesses. Craig Scholten and Ryan Bos were each fined $6,000 and sentenced to a four-month term of home detention as a portion of their one-year probation sentence. Douglas Larsen was fined $7,500 and sentenced to two-month home detention as part of a one-year probation sentence. Scott DeKock was fined $10,000 and received one year of probation. In imposing the sentences, Judge Maloney commented on the “systematic violations” of the Clean Air Act that occurred in this case.
“This case is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States and today’s sentences send a loud and clear message that polluters who break environmental laws will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Totten. “Environmental rules safeguard the water we drink, the lakes we fish, and the air we breathe. It’s critical that we protect our people and our planet from harmful pollutants.”
The two companies, Douglas Larsen, Craig Scholten, Ryan Bos, and Scott DeKock all pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act. According to public records filed in the case, Accurate Truck Service, LLC, is owned by Larsen, Scholten, and Bos. Griffin Transportation, Inc., is owned by Scholten and Bos. DeKock used to own a shipping company involved in the scheme.
Accurate Truck Service, LLC, removed or altered the hardware components of trucks with heavy-duty diesel engines; these components controlled the vehicles’ emissions. A separate company, Diesel Freak LLC, reprogrammed the engine computers of the trucks so that they would continue to function even after the hardware was removed or altered. This process is sometimes referred to as a “deletion,” that is, “deleting” the emissions controls from the vehicles. “Deleting” emissions controls from the vehicles can improve performance and fuel economy and save maintenance costs, but also causes significant detrimental environmental impacts. Tampering with or removing emissions controls can drastically increase the emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and non-methane hydrocarbons found in vehicle exhaust. Exposure to and inhalation of these chemicals at greater levels is associated with serious health risks.
Griffin Transportation, Inc., and the company DeKock formerly owned engaged Accurate Truck Service, LLC, and Diesel Freak LLC to “delete” trucks owned, operated, or leased by the companies. During the conspiracy, Diesel Freak LLC was involved in at least 362 deletions; Accurate Truck Service, LLC, in at least 83 deletions; Griffin Transportation, Inc., in at least 12 deletions; and DeKock’s former company in at least 4 deletions. Diesel Freak LLC, Diesel Freak LLC’s owner, Ryan Lalone, and Diesel Freak employee Wade Lalone are scheduled for sentencing before Judge Maloney on December 11, 2023.
“Exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to serious health conditions, such as asthma and respiratory illness, and contributes greatly to poor air quality -- concerns the defendants in this case ignored in favor of financial profit,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Lisa Matovic of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division (“EPA-CID”). “The sentencings in this case show that EPA and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable individuals who disregard health and environmental laws designed to protect our communities from dangerous air pollution.”
The purpose of the Clean Air Act is, among other things, “to protect and enhance the quality of the Nation’s air resources so as to promote the public health and welfare and the productive capacity of its population.” In passing the Act, Congress found that “the increasing use of motor vehicles has resulted in mounting dangers to the public health and welfare.”
U.S. Attorney Totten also noted that those with information about other companies and individuals involved in tampering with emissions controls in connection with this investigation can contact EPA-CID at (734) 214-4913. General environmental violations can be reported to EPA through the website https://echo.epa.gov/report-environmental-violations.
EPA-CID investigated the matters with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Investigation Section. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin M. Presant and Meagan Johnson prosecuted the cases.