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Post date: April 13 2016

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Felony Convictions of NYC Motor Vehicle Inspectors for Issuing Over 13,000 Fake Inspection Certificates

Operation “Ridin’ Dirtier” Revealed That Employees At 7 Of NYC’s Busiest Inspection Stations Passed Cars Without Conducting Mandatory Safety And Emissions Tests
Schneiderman: My Office Has Zero Tolerance For Misconduct That Puts New Yorkers At Risk

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the felony convictions of 8 New York City motor vehicle inspectors and 2 corporations charged with issuing more than 13,000 fraudulent inspection certificates to untested vehicles. Each defendant was charged with violations of New York State Penal Law, Environmental Law and Vehicle and Traffic Law and pleaded guilty to felony charges. 

“Rather than performing state-required inspections to keep unsafe and polluting cars off the road, these workers instead took advantage of their expertise to cheat the system and line their pockets,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office has zero tolerance for misconduct that puts New Yorkers at risk, and will vigorously pursue those who endanger the public for their own financial gain.”

“This investigation showed the importance of working together with our partners toward one common goal: to keep New Yorkers safe,” said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan. “Not only does this particularly egregious case of issuing fraudulent inspection certificates pose a public health and safety risk, but it makes clear to consumers that there are still inspectors who don’t have their best interests in mind. DMV will continue to work with our fellow agencies to bring such individuals and businesses to justice.”  

“The laws that were violated in this case are in place to protect our citizens and our environment,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The consequences of these types of crimes have ripple effects across our state, impacting safety on our roadways and contributing to pollution in our air. I hope this case serves as an example that we won’t take these crimes lightly.”

The defendants were employed at 7 of New York City’s busiest licensed inspection stations, which are legally required to use Department of Motor Vehicles’ regulated equipment and procedures to conduct inspections.  Every motor vehicle registered in New York State must be inspected annually for safety and at least biennially for emissions. According to prosecutors, the defendants bypassed these procedures by performing “clean scans,” a fraudulent process that substitutes data from a secondary vehicle. The inspector will initially enter the identification number, model information and license plate number for the vehicle under inspection. The inspector will then connect the DMV computer to the secondary vehicle and rely on the secondary vehicle’s inspection results to “pass” the safety and emissions tests for the vehicle under inspection. A fraudulent inspection certification is issued for the untested vehicle, which would potentially fail an inspection or was not even present.

The Attorney General’s Office, together with the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Environmental Conversation, conducted undercover operations at the 7 stations.  In Operation “Ridin’ Dirtier,” 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 a clean scan, but instead illegally sold inspection stickers to the undercover investigator without performing any inspection whatsoever.  While motor vehicle inspectors can legally charge a maximum of $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.      

Yesterday in Bronx County Supreme Court before the Honorable Judge Raymond Bruce, Gustavo Lopez, 33, of New York, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of Washington Motors Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 2106 Washington Avenue, Bronx, pleaded guilty to Attempted Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the 2nd Degree, a Class E Felony.  He is expected to be sentenced to a Conditional Discharge and to pay a $5,000 fine on July 20, 2016.  

In addition to yesterday's guilty pleas, as part of this joint investigation, 9 other individuals and corporations previously pleaded guilty to the Class E Felony of Issuing a False Certificate and were sentenced to either probation or a conditional discharge along with a $5,000 fine:

  • Luis Peralta, 40, of Yonkers, NY, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of RapidCar Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 690 Southern Boulevard, Bronx;
  • Micael Compres, 31, of Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of All Prestige Muffler Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 1705 Jerome Avenue, Bronx;
  • Claudon Harriote , 54, of Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of East 222 Automotive Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 1135 East 222nd Street, Bronx;
  • David Nunez, 43, of New York, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of Serpro Auto Repair Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 1898 Boston Road, Bronx; 
  • Victor Ramos, 56, of Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and president/owner of  All Prestige Muffler Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 1705 Jerome Avenue, Bronx;
  • Lillian Tapia, 35, of Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of Mega Muffler Center Corp., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 1301 Westchester Avenue, Bronx;
  • Raul Torres, 41, of Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of Ochun Auto Repair Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 933 Edgewater Road, Bronx;
  • All Prestige Muffler Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 1705 Jerome Avenue, Bronx; and
  • Serpro Auto Repair Inc., a motor vehicle inspection station located at 1898 Boston Road, Bronx.

Evading state emissions requirements permits thousands of substandard vehicles to remain on New York roads, leading to increased safety risks for drivers and the degradation of air quality in New York.  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 supply of skilled workers needed to conduct vehicle inspections. 

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”). 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Hugh L. McLean of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau.  The Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary Fishman and Deputy Chief Stephanie Swenton. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan. 

The investigation was conducted by Environmental Conservation Investigator Nicholas Desottele of DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, led by Major Scott Florence, along with Investigators Sylvia Rivera, Ismael Hernandez, and David Negron of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, led by Investigator 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 developed, particularly James Clyne, Chief or DEC’s In-Use Programs Section, Division of Air Resources, Chris Ayers, DMV’s Director of Vehicle Safety Field Services, and Horace Parker, Regional Director of Vehicle Safety Field Services.