NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of two New York City motor vehicle inspectors for issuing fraudulent safety and emission inspection certificates to diesel trucks that were not tested. The defendants ‑ both inspection station owners ‑ were charged with both felony and misdemeanor counts. They face up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in state prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines for violating multiple state laws, including environmental conservation and vehicle and traffic laws.
The Attorney General’s criminal prosecution is the result of a referral by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Mark Asselta, 46, of Queens, the owner of J&M Truck Repair located at 53 Scott Avenue, Brooklyn; and Shlomo Freedman, 54, of Brooklyn, the owner of Myer Auto Center at 480 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, were arrested and arraigned in Brooklyn State Supreme Court earlier today. The licensed DMV inspectors were each charged with a top count of felony Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree.
“My office will not stand for the blatant disregard of air pollution quality standards in Brooklyn, or in any other neighborhood in New York State,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “These emissions standards are crucial for ensuring that dangerous soot particulates aren’t spewed into the air we breathe. These perpetrators will be held accountable for blackening our skies and our children’s lungs.”
Flouting these state requirements allows thousands of substandard trucks to remain on New York roads, leading to increased safety risks for drivers and the significant degradation of New York’s air quality. Stations that fail to perform proper safety and emissions tests also gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding facilities by substantially decreasing the amount of time and the number of skilled workers needed to conduct vehicle inspections.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “One of DEC’s highest priorities is to protect New York’s air quality. Through routine heavy truck emissions testing and undercover operations such as this, our Division of Law Enforcement has worked closely with other agencies to crack down on vehicle pollution in urban settings to prevent harmful emissions from impacting environmental justice communities. Attempts to subvert Heavy Diesel Vehicle inspection and maintenance requirements will not be tolerated because it defrauds both the state and the consumer, and even more importantly, results in increased pollution and diminished air quality. DEC will continue to work with the Attorney General and all our partners to enforce the state’s emissions inspection requirements, and to ensure all environmental protections are enforced.”
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said, “I commend the DMV employees who assisted the Attorney General’s Office in investigating these private vehicle inspectors who attempted to sidestep the procedures for proper emissions inspection which would put our environment and the health of our citizens at risk. We are glad to support the Attorney General’s office in these efforts to weed out fraudulent inspectors.”
Every vehicle registered in New York State that weighs over 8,500 pounds and is powered by a diesel engine (a Heavy Duty Diesel Vehicle or “HDDV”) must be inspected annually for safety and appropriate emissions compliance by a Department of Motor Vehicle-licensed inspection station. The defendants owned two New York City DMV-licensed inspection stations, which are legally required to use DMV-regulated equipment and follow standard procedures to conduct these inspections. Specifically, 6 New York Codes, Rules and Regulations Part 217-5 requires an inspector to perform a series of safety tests on the vehicle, as well as to perform an emissions test by inserting a smokemeter into the tailpipe of the vehicle while the vehicle’s engine is running.
According to the felony complaints filed against these two defendants, the Attorney General’s office along with the DEC and the DMV conducted an undercover operation to discover violations of the inspection laws. In this operation, undercover investigators drove an HDDV truck rigged to fail a legitimate motor vehicle inspection to both DMV-licensed inspection stations in order to obtain 2013 HDDV Safety/Emissions Inspection Certificate stickers. Both stations provided a 2013 certificate to the DEC undercover investigators and placed the sticker on the undercover truck even though the inspectors performed no actual inspection of the undercover investigators’ truck. Specifically, the defendants did not perform any safety tests of the truck nor did they place a meter into the truck’s tailpipe. One of the defendants did not even require the undercover officer to pull the truck into the facility’s inspection bay during the truck’s “inspection.”
DEC performed their own tests of the truck before arriving at and after leaving the inspection stations. These tests showed the truck to have tail pipe emissions levels substantially higher than the legal limit.
The complaints further indicate that both stations purchased more than a thousand HDDV Safety/Emission Inspection Certificate stickers from DMV for issuance during the 2012 calendar year. Each DMV-licensed inspector is entitled to charge $45 for a proper HDDV inspection.
The defendants are both being charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony that carries a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. Other charges include Issuing a False Certificate, a class E felony carrying a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in jail; Violation of Emissions Inspection Procedures and Test Methods, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a fine of $15,000; and Illegal Issuance of an Emission Certificate of Inspection, an unclassified misdemeanor that also carries a fine of $15,000.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jason P. Garelick of the Environmental Crimes Unit under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief for Criminal Prosecutions Stephanie Swenton, Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.
The investigation was conducted by Environmental Conservation Investigator Kevin Gilmartin of DEC, Division of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, under the supervision of Lieutenants John Fitzpatrick and Bernard Rivers, Captain Joseph Schneider and Major Scott Florence. Investigators Edward Ortiz and Sixto Santiago of the New York State Office of the Attorney General also assisted under Supervising Investigator Kenneth Morgan, Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Chief of Investigations Dominick Zarrella.
The Attorney General recognizes the diligent work of the DEC and DMV staff with whose cooperation the case was developed, particularly Anthony Tagliaferro, DEC, Division of Air Resources, Senior Laboratory Equipment Designer; Richard Gage, DEC, Division of Air Resources, Environmental Program Specialist; and Chris Ayers, DMV, Director of Vehicle Safety Field Services.
The charges are accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Source: Press Release