By Kathy Jefcoats
A former licensed emission inspector, working out of a College Park shop, was sentenced to two years in prison for violating the federal Clean Air Act.
Two co-defendants of Michael Kelly, 40, of Atlanta, also have pleaded guilty to the same charge, and are awaiting sentencing.
Federal prosecutors said the trio charged customers $100 to $125 for fraudulently passing cars on emissions tests at the Stop N Shop, in College Park. State law prohibits emissions testing stations from charging more than $25.
During a five-month period, from January to May 2009, the three issued more than 1,400 fraudulent emissions certificates, falsely stating the cars had passed, according to authorities. Prosecutors said Kelly issued 476 of those certificates.
The defendants, prosecutors said, connected different cars they knew would pass the test, instead of connecting the owners' real cars to the emissions equipment. During the tests, the computer system automatically transmitted emissions testing data to a statewide database accessible by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
On the day Kelly was arrested, prosecutors said, he was in the process of performing that same fraudulent testing at a Union City shop, using his personal vehicle.
Co-defendants Jackie Baker, 52, of Atlanta, and James Hinton, 41, of Riverdale, are to be sentenced June 29, in U.S. District Court.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said the government takes such violations seriously, because polluted emissions affects everyone.
"Air pollution remains a significant problem in the Atlanta area, and is a special concern during the summer months when smog is at its worst," said Yates. "This defendant contributed to the problem by faking emissions tests for illegal payments. He passed hundreds of cars that should have failed, allowing dangerous pollutants to be released into the air everyone breathes."
Environmental officials are also satisfied with the action taken by prosecutors.
"Fraudulent emissions tests result in increased pollution from cars and light trucks - the major cause of smog in the metro Atlanta area," said Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming. "Increased smog is directly linked to increases in asthma and other respiratory illnesses, particularly in sensitive populations. By taking action against the criminals who bypass the federal emission standards of the Clean Air Act, EPA is taking the necessary steps to reduce smog and the negative health impacts where citizens live, work, learn and play."