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Riverdale, Atlanta men accused of emissions fraud

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

msubiria@news-daily.com

Three men, including one from Riverdale, have been indicted on federal charges of fraudulently giving emission certificates to more than 1,400 cars that, otherwise, would not have passed an emissions inspection required by Georgia law and the Clean Air Act.

Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta, said alleged acts of fraud occurred over a five-month period, in 2009.

The individuals include James Hinton, 41, of Riverdale, and Jackie Baker, 52, and Michael Kelly, 40, both of Atlanta, he said.

According to Crosby, the licensed emissions inspectors reportedly accepted under-the-table payments of $100 to $125, at Stop N Shop, in College Park. The facility charged $20 for a legitimate inspection.

He said it is unlawful in the state of Georgia to charge more than $25 for an emissions inspection.

"This kind of shortsighted greed results in long-term damage, causing the ongoing release of dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere and damaging Atlanta's air quality," added United States Attorney Sally Yates, in a written statement. "The defendants have lost their inspection licenses, and now face federal charges."

The three defendants worked at the Stop N Shop through May 2009, when they lost their licenses, explained Crosby. The five-month period of these alleged actions occurred from January, to May 2009, he added.

The defendants allegedly made false statements that the owners' cars passed the inspection, said Crosby. "Instead of connecting the owners' real cars to the emissions equipment, however, the defendants connected different cars that they knew would pass the test," he said.

During these inspections, said the spokesman, the computer system automatically sent the emission-testing data to a statewide database attainable by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The defendants, allegedly, would then manually enter other information into the system, including the make, model and vehicle identification number, said Crosby. This would make it appear they were inspecting the owners' actual vehicles. Many of these vehicles had already failed an emissions test, or demonstrated equipment malfunctions, he said.

The defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury, on a total of 119 counts, on Feb. 22, Crosby said. The charges include conspiracy and Clean Air Act violations.

"The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and each Clean Air Act count carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison," said Crosby.

He added that each count also carries a maximum fine of up to $250,000.

Crosby said the case is being investigated by special agents of the Criminal Investigation Division of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen McClain is prosecuting the case, he said.