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Press Release

Charlotte Man Is Sentenced And Fined For Violating The Clean Air Act

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina
​​​​​​​The Defendant Fraudulently Coded 3,779 Vehicles to Avoid Emissions Inspections

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rodolfo Rodriguez, 43, of Charlotte, was sentenced to ten months in prison followed by three years of supervised release today for violating the Clean Air Act, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Rodriguez was also ordered to pay a $302,320 fine and $24,404.60 in restitution to the State of North Carolina.

U.S. Attorney King is joined in making the announcement by Michael Sparks, Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General (EPA-OIG), Charles Carfagno, Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), and Colonel Michael Oates of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) License and Theft Bureau.

“Vehicle emission standards and testing are in place to protect the health and safety of our communities,” said U.S. Attorney King. “Environmental violations will not be tolerated and polluters will be held accountable for their actions.”

“Mr. Rodriguez was sentenced today for conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act for fraudulent vehicle emissions testing,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Carfagno of EPA’s criminal enforcement program. “The defendant’s criminal activity intentionally increased air pollution in communities where these vehicles operate, further exacerbating respiratory illnesses and environmental degradation. Today’s sentencing serves as a reminder that EPA and our partners are steadfast in our commitment to protect human health and the environment.”

According to court records and today’s court proceedings, from July 2019 to November 2022, Rodriguez fraudulently coded 3,779 vehicles that would have otherwise failed the required State emissions inspection. Rodriguez committed the violations while he was employed at Friendly Auto Repair, and later as the owner and operator of Auto Spa Auto Inspections and More and Tiger Auto Inspections and More, Inc. Court documents show that Rodriguez executed the scheme by falsely changing the information of vehicles that would have otherwise failed the required State emissions testing, so that they were no longer required by the State’s registration system to have a passing emissions test.

According to court documents, in some instances Rodriguez executed the scheme through “county swaps,” by swapping in the system the county of registration for vehicles from a county that required an emissions test to a county where no emissions testing was required. In other instances, Rodriguez did “duty swaps,” by changing the characterization of trucks in the system from light duty trucks, which require emissions inspections, to heavy duty trucks, which do not require such testing. Finally, Rodriguez did “fuel swaps,” by changing the type of fuel used from gas or diesel to electric, thus allowing such vehicles to evade the vehicle emissions testing requirement. In exchange for falsifying vehicle information, Rodriguez received cash payments from customers that far exceeded what customers would have paid to have an emissions inspection. In addition, Rodriguez paid the State of North Carolina only $0.85 per non-emissions/safety inspection, instead of the $6.25 per vehicle charge he should have paid for an inspection.

On June 15, 2023, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and violate the Clean Air Act, and one count of violating the Clean Air Act. Rodriguez will be ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney King thanked the EPA-OIG, EPA-CID, and NC DOT License and Theft Bureau for their coordination and investigation of the case.

Assistant United States Attorney Steven Kaufman, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.

Updated February 21, 2024

Environmental Justice