N.Y. Auto Inspectors Admit to Faking Tailpipe Tests

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By John Herzfeld

April 13 — Eight state-licensed motor vehicle inspectors in New York City and two auto shops have been convicted on felony charges that they falsified some 13,000 required safety and tailpipe emissions inspections, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced April 13.

The announcement tallied the results of “Operation Ridin’ Dirtier,” a joint undercover investigation by the attorney general’s office and the state Motor Vehicles and Environmental Conservation departments at seven of New York’s busiest inspection stations. The defendants were arrested in March 2013 (56 DEN A-8, 3/22/13).

The last one to plead guilty, Gustavo Lopez, admitted to attempted forgery charges April 12 in state Supreme Court for Bronx County, Schneiderman said. The latest plea agreement calls for a conditional discharge and a $5,000 fine.

The others pleaded guilty earlier to charges of issuing a false certificate and were sentenced to either probation or a conditional discharge, with $5,000 fines, prosecutors said.

The state requires DMV-licensed inspection stations to use regulated testing equipment and follow standard procedures to conduct inspections, prosecutors said.

They flouted the requirements with “clean scans” of untested vehicles, a fraudulent process that substitutes data from another vehicle, according to the charges.

Stickers for Sale

In the undercover probe, prosecutors said, investigators got passing results for vehicles rigged to fail a legitimate inspection, even though the inspectors performed minimal or no tests. Employees of several stations, they said, hadn't even performed a clean scan, but instead illegally sold stickers to undercover investigators without any inspection, they charged.

All the inspectors significantly exceeded the maximum $37 charge allowed, in some cases collecting as much as $150, they said.

Faked emissions tests allow thousands of substandard vehicles to remain on the road, adding to safety risks and degrading air quality, state officials said. Stations that cheat on the requirements “gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding facilities” by saving on labor costs, Schneiderman said, pledging “zero tolerance.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Herzfeld in New York at jherzfeld@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com