Friday, 12 January 2007 17:14

Illegal business practices benefit college students

Future automotive technicians at Columbia College in Sonora, California, are getting some hands-on experience using Smog Check inspection equipment seized by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair (DCA/BAR) pursuant to a court order.
DCA/BAR donated a BAR 97 analyzer and a dyna-mometer to the college after shutting down an illegal Smog Check operation in Los Angeles.

"BAR enforcement actions protect con-sumers from illegal business practices," said DCA Director Charlene Zettel. "We try to have the result benefit local education. BAR frequently donates confiscated machines to train local students."

For those on the receiving end, this donation was a welcome addition to the autotech program at this BAR-certified training facility.

"We are very appreciative of the state partnering with us this way," said Erik Andal, instructor and coordinator of the autotech program at Columbia College. "They could have just as easily put it in storage rather than deal with the change of ownership. It's just a good indicator of how well the BAR works to build strong partnerships with the
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 Columbia College automotive technology students Noah Whitmore, Jacob Buckingham and Hayley Fortunato work on the newly-donated BAR smog analyzer.

automotive training facilities."

Investigators from the South El Monte Field Office and the Los Angeles County District Attorney seized the equipment following a criminal/administrative investigation that found both felony and misdemeanor Smog Check violations. DCA/BAR revoked the facility's auto repair registration and Smog Check licenses, as well as the Smog Check technician's license for "clean piping," the illegal practice of obtaining emissions samples to substitute for actual vehicles that needed testing.

"The goal of California's Smog Check Program is to reduce air pollution by bringing vehicles into compliance with emissions standards," said BAR Chief Sherry Mehl. "When a shop illegally certifies vehicles that do not meet emissions standards, it only makes the problem worse."

Andal said the local auto body shops in Sonora, a rural town east of Modesto, were also excited about the donation.

"The stronger our vocational programs are, the more trained their work pool is," he said.

Andal was aware that the BAR occasionally confiscates equipment, and he contacted the organization a few years ago to register the college as a potential recipient. Before the donation, the school had one BAR 97 analyzer, and they did not have a dynamometer.

"This equipment greatly enhanced what we had, and what that does is it enhances learning," Andal said.

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