Occupational Health & Safety

10 Vehicle Emissions Testers Indicted for 'Clean Scanning' Scam

According to the Department of Justice, when it comes to vehicle emissions testing, what happens in Vegas definitely does not stay in Vegas. On Jan. 8, a federal grand jury in Las Vegas returned indictments against 10 Nevada-certified emissions testers for falsifying vehicle emissions test reports, DOJ announced.

Each defendant faces one felony Clean Air Act count for falsifying reports between November 2007 and May 2009. The number of falsifications varied by defendant, with some defendants having falsified approximately 250 records, while others falsified more than double that number, DOJ said. One defendant is alleged to have falsified more than 700 reports.

The 10 defendants are alleged to have engaged in a practice known as "clean scanning" vehicles. The scheme involved entering the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for a vehicle that would not pass the emissions test into the computerized system, then connecting a different vehicle the testers knew would pass the test. These falsifications were allegedly performed for anywhere from $10 to $100 over and above the usual emissions testing fee.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Clean Air Act, requires the state of Nevada to conduct vehicle emissions testing in certain areas because the areas exceed national standards for carbon monoxide and ozone. Las Vegas is currently required to perform emissions testing.

To obtain a registration renewal, vehicle owners bring the vehicles to a licensed inspection station for testing. The emissions inspector logs into a computer to activate the system by using a unique password issued to the emissions inspector. The emissions inspector manually inputs the vehicle’s VIN to identify the tested vehicle, then connects the vehicle for model year 1996 and later to an onboard diagnostics port connected to an analyzer. The analyzer downloads data from the vehicle’s computer, analyzes the data, and provides a "pass" or "fail" result. The pass or fail result and vehicle identification data are reported on the Vehicle Inspection Report. It is a crime to knowingly alter or conceal any record or other document required to be maintained by the Clean Air Act.

"Lying about car emissions means dirtier air, which is especially of concern in areas like Las Vegas that are already experiencing air quality problems," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at EPA. "We will take aggressive action to ensure communities have clean air."

"The residents of Nevada deserve to know that the vast majority of licensed vehicle emission inspectors are not corrupt and are not circumventing emission testing procedures," said U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden. "These indictments should serve as a clear warning to offenders that the Department of Justice will prosecute you if you make fraudulent statements and reports concerning compliance with the federal Clean Air Act."

The maximum penalty for the felony violations contained in the indictments includes up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. DOJ noted that an indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case was investigated by the EPA, Criminal Investigation Division; and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles Compliance Enforcement Division. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada and DOJ's Environmental Crimes Section.

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