Charlotte auto shop owner sentenced to prison for falsifying emisson inspections

Emission tests
Emission tests(WITN)
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 12:42 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The owner of Friendly Auto Repair in Charlotte is headed to prison for a year and will have to pay a $1.2m fine for violating federal law by fraudulently signing off on vehicle emissions inspections, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.

Judge Dena King, US Attorney for the Western District of NC sentenced Jamal Saymeh, 59, “to 12 months and one day in prison followed by two years of supervised release for violating the Clean Air Act, by fraudulently coding over 15,000 vehicles that would have otherwise failed the required State emissions inspection,” according to the US Attorney’s Office.

In 1970 the federal government enacted the ‘Clean Air Act’ regulating emissions giving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to create the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). In North Carolina, certain counties require emissions testing in order for drivers to register their vehicles but if a car doesn’t pass it has to be fixed. That can get expensive for drivers but King said the requirements are in place for a reason.

“Vehicle emissions testing is required to protect the health and safety of our communities,” King said. “As part of my Office’s Environmental Justice Initiative, we will hold polluters accountable for their actions and protect communities harmed by environmental violations.”

The violations of the CAA went on for five years and Saymeh found ways around state and federal regulations.

“In some instances, Saymeh executed the scheme by doing “county swaps,” meaning by falsifying in the system the county of registration for 11,568 vehicles from a county that required an emissions test to a county where no emissions testing was required,” according to a press release. “In other instances, Saymeh changed in the system the characterization of 3,622 trucks, from light-duty trucks that require emissions inspections to heavy-duty trucks that do not require such testing.”

Records show Saymeh took cash payments from customers that exceeded the cost of an emissions inspection and he only paid the state less than required.

Saymeh paid the State of North Carolina only $0.85 per non-emissions/safety inspection, instead of the $6.25 per vehicle charge he should have paid for an inspection.

“On December 14, 2022, Saymeh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the Clean Air Act, and two counts of violating the Clean Air Act. Saymeh will be ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility,” according to the statement.