Durham emissions inspector sentenced

Feb. 25, 2013 @ 06:04 PM

A Durham man was sentenced in federal court in Wilmington last week for falsely passing vehicle  inspections.

U.S. District Judge James C. Fox sentenced Angel Dario Rodriguez Nunez, 30, of Durham, to five years of probation with six months house arrest and a $500 fine.  The sentence reflected a reduction for Nunez for his cooperation in the ongoing investigation.

“Falsifying vehicle emission inspections directly undermines the Clean Air Act’s goal to protect and enhance our Nation’s air resources,” U.S.  Attorney Thomas G. Walker said. “This prosecution reflects that corruption among licensed inspectors that perpetrates pollution for personal monetary gain will not be tolerated.”

Court officials said Nunez worked at Express Auto Sales and Services and Car Care Express Auto Sales and Services, both in Durham, as a licensed North Carolina emissions inspector. From May 2009  to July  2010, Nunez allegedly conspired with others to pass vehicles that would normally have failed the emissions inspection in exchange for $150 to $225 per car. 

Prosecutors say Nunez and his co-conspirators would enter the vehicle identification number either manually or by scanning.  A surrogate vehicle, usually one manufactured between 1996 and 1999 that would not generate a vehicle identification number when connected to the analyzer, would be selected. Using the surrogate vehicle, an emissions report would be generated for the customer’s vehicle.  During this period, 817 vehicles passed the false inspection.  Of those 817, Nunez falsely tested 353, court officials said.  

Each day, emissions inspection reports are electronically transferred to the North Carolina Office of Information and Technology Services Raleigh.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires the state to conduct vehicle emissions testing in certain areas because the areas exceed national standards for carbon monoxide and ozone.

“Cheating on emissions tests damages the air we breathe and puts businesses that do things the right way at an unfair disadvantage,” said Attorney General Roy Cooper.  “We’re working closely with our state and federal partners to crack down on these illegal polluters.”

The case was investigated by the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; the N.C.  State Bureau of Investigation; and the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, License and Theft Bureau.  Assistant United States Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is prosecuting the case.