A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest Of Eight Motor Vehicle Inspectors For Faking More Than 13,000 Inspections In The Bronx
Undercover Investigation Reveals Employees At Seven Of NYC’s Busiest Inspection Stations Passed Vehicles Without Conducting Mandatory Safety And Emissions Reviews
Laws Flouted To Certify Cars That Would Otherwise Fail Tests; Some Stickers Sold At More Than Four Times The Legal Cost
Schneiderman: Crooked Inspectors Failed To Protect Fellow Citizens, Cheated The System
NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of eight New York City motor vehicle inspectors who issued more than 13,000 fraudulent inspection certificates to untested vehicles. Each defendant, including several of the companies the inspectors work for, was charged with numerous felony counts for violations of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, penal and environmental laws. The inspectors face up to seven years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
“These individuals were trusted to perform state-required inspections specifically aimed at keeping unsafe cars off the road. Instead of performing safety inspections, they took advantage of their expertise and cheated the system,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “New York’s emissions standards are crucial for ensuring that dangerous pollution isn’t spewed into the air we breathe, and that unsafe vehicles are kept off our streets. These perpetrators will be held accountable for polluting our skies, threatening our children’s health and undermining public safety.”
Every motor vehicle registered in New York State must be inspected annually for safety and appropriate emissions compliance. The defendants were employed at seven of New York City’s busiest DMV-licensed inspection stations, which are legally required to use DMV-regulated equipment and follow standard procedures to conduct inspections.
According to the criminal complaints filed in Bronx Criminal Court, the defendants bypassed these procedures by performing “clean scans,” a fraudulent process that substitutes data from a secondary vehicle. The inspector first entered the identification number, model information and license plate number for the vehicle in need of certification. The inspector then connected the DMV computer to a secondary vehicle and used its data to “pass” the safety and emissions tests for the vehicle in need of certification. A fraudulent inspection certificate was issued for the untested vehicle, which would potentially have failed an inspection or was not even present.
Flouting these state requirements permits thousands of substandard vehicles to remain on New York roads, leading to increased safety risks for drivers and the significant degradation of New York air quality. Stations that utilize “clean scans” or simply sell inspection stickers also gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding facilities by substantially decreasing both the amount of time and the cost of employing skilled workers to conduct vehicle inspections.
The Attorney General’s office, along with the DMV and the DEC, conducted undercover operations at the seven stations, which are among the busiest DMV licensed inspection stations in New York City, between December 2012 and February 2013. An undercover investigator took a vehicle that was rigged to fail a legitimate motor vehicle inspection to each station and each station provided passing inspection results to the vehicle even though the inspectors performed minimal or no actual inspection on it. Employees of several stations didn’t even perform “clean scans” but rather illegally sold inspection stickers to the undercover investigator without performing any inspection of the undercover vehicle. While motor vehicle inspectors can legally charge up to $37 for a motor vehicle inspection, all of the inspectors and stations in this case charged significantly higher payments for these fake inspections -- some up to $150. Together, the defendants faked a total of 13,437 inspections, court documents show.
The Attorney General’s criminal prosecution is the result of a joint investigation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said, “This action demonstrates that government agencies working together can bring to justice those that are intent on breaking the law, defrauding consumers or polluting the air. The DMV will continue to work with the agencies involved in this investigation to aggressively protect New Yorkers from such fraudulent activity.”
New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martenssaid, “The vehicle repair shops targeted in this sting operation represent 40 percent of the suspected illegal inspections conducted throughout the state. New Yorkers, particularly those living in our urban settings, should not have to tolerate the polluted air and unsafe vehicle conditions these illegal inspections promote. Individuals that place profit and greed over our health and safety will be brought to justice through the efforts of our State Environmental Conservation Police investigators and officers, along with DEC program staff, Department of Motor Vehicle staff and the Office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. To combat this ongoing problem, I have instructed my law enforcement officers to aggressively pursue illegal inspections to put an end to this reckless activity."
The following individuals were charged today:
- Micael Compres, 29, of the Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of All Prestige Muffler Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1705 Jerome Avenue;
- Claudon Harriote, 52, of the Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of East 222 Automotive Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1135 East 222nd Street;
- Gustavo Lopez, 30, of Manhattan, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of Washington Motors Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 2106 Washington Avenue;
- David Nunez, 41, of Manhattan, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of Serpro Auto Repair Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1898 Boston Road;
- Luis Peralta, 37, of Yonkers, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of RapidCar Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 690 Southern Boulevard;
- Ramon S. Ramos, 59, of Manhattan, a licensed inspector at Cross Bronx Mufflers Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1677 Jerome Avenue;
- Victor Ramos, 54, of the Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of All Prestige Muffler Inc., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1705 Jerome Avenue;
- Lillian Tapia, 32, of the Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of Mega Muffler Center Corp., a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1301 Westchester Avenue;
All Prestige Muffler Inc., Serpro Auto Repair Inc., and RapidCar Inc., are also charged in this case. These corporations face potentially large fines.
The defendants are all 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, and Illegal Issuance of an Emission Certificate of Inspection, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a fine of $15,000 per count.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Jason P. Garelick and Rajiv Shah 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 Nicholas Desottele of DEC, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, under the supervision of Lt. John Fitzpatrick and Major Scott Florence. Investigators Sylvia Rivera, Ismael Hernandez and David Negron of the New York State Office of the Attorney General also worked on the case under the supervision of Supervising Investigators Michael Ward, John Sullivan, Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella.
The Attorney General recognizes the diligent work of the DEC and DMV staff with whose cooperation the case was developed, particularly James Clyne, DEC’s Chief of In-Use Programs Section, Division of Air Resources, and Chris Ayers, DMV’s Director of Vehicle Safety Field Services.
The charges are accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.