Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged the owner of a certified vehicle emissions inspection station with manipulating the State’s testing protocols. According to the State’s enforcement action, the defendant tampered with the emissions test process in order to ensure substandard vehicles passed their state inspection tests.
An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office revealed that defendants Hussein Mahrouq and MEI Auto Repair, LLC used their inspection station to help their used car lots circumvent state vehicle emission tests. The defendant’s used car lots, Automax and Dollar Rent a Car Sales, and its emissions testing facility were part of a “clean scanning” scheme. According to state investigators, emissions data from vehicles with clean emissions were substituted for vehicles whose mechanical condition might have caused them to fail state emission tests.
Based on emissions inspection data, authorities determined that certain vehicles were never actually subjected to emissions testing. Customers who purchased these untested vehicles assumed the inspection stickers were valid. As a result, those customers could have been harmed by the fraudulent scheme if future testing revealed that costly repairs were necessary to pass legitimate emissions tests.
In addition to harming vehicle purchasers, the defendant’s scheme violated the State’s “AirCheck” program rules, which target high-polluting vehicles for removal from Texas highways by previewing incentives to dealers and customers who participate in the program. AirCheck, administered locally by the NCTCOG, allows customers to apply for up to $3,500 in vouchers toward the purchase of new or qualifying used vehicles. The program then reimburses car dealers for the vouchers used by customers to purchase vehicles. In this case, Automax and Dollar Rent a Car Sales were fraudulently selling later model – but clean-scanned – vehicles under the AirCheck program.
A typical clean-scan operation involves a vehicle inspector attaching testing equipment to a “clean” vehicle that already passed the clean air inspection. Then, the inspector enters an untested and potentially non-compliant vehicle’s identification number (VIN), which is not the vehicle being tested. As a result, an untested vehicle passes its inspection, receives an inspection sticker and is capable of being sold.
By investigating and reviewing data collected by emissions testing machines, NCTCOG investigators can uncover illegal testing schemes, as in this case. The testing equipment, which interfaces with each vehicle’s onboard diagnostic equipment, helps investigators uncover when a vehicle has been issued another vehicle’s testing results and inspection sticker.