NC Auto Repair Shop Owner Sentenced for Coding 15K Vehicles to Avoid Emissions Inspections
Published May 2, 2023
Jamal Saymeh, 59, of Charlotte, NC, was sentenced May 1 to a year and a day in prison followed by two years of supervised release for fraudulently coding more than 15,000 vehicles that would have otherwise failed the required state emissions inspection, a violation of the Clean Air Act.
Saymeh was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney, who also ordered Saymeh to pay a $1.2 million fine and $82,026 in restitution to the State of North Carolina, announced Dena J. King, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Michael Sparks, special agent in charge of the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (EPA-OIG), Charles Carfagno, special agent in charge of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), and Col. Michael Oates of the North Carolina Department of Transportation License and Theft Bureau (NCDOT) joined King in making the announcement.
Saymeh is the owner and operator of Friendly Auto Repair (FAR) shop in Charlotte. In addition to auto repairs, in 2017, FAR became licensed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to perform emissions inspections.
According to filed documents and court proceedings, between 2017 and 2022, Saymeh used his business to execute a scheme to falsely change the information of vehicles that would have otherwise failed the required state emissions testing, so that they were no longer required by the state’s registration system to have a passing emissions test.
According to court records, 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. 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.
During the relevant time period, court documents show Saymeh falsified the information for at least 15,190 vehicles that would have otherwise failed their state emissions inspections.
In exchange for falsifying vehicle information, Saymeh received cash payments from customers that far exceeded what customers would have paid to have an emissions inspection. In addition, 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.
“Vehicle emissions testing is required to protect the health and safety of our communities,” said King. “As part of my Office’s Environmental Justice Initiative, we will hold polluters accountable for their actions and protect communities harmed by environmental violations.”
On Dec. 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.
In making the announcement, King thanked the EPA-OIG, EPA-CID and NCDOT for their coordination and investigation of the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Kaufman, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.
Source: U.S. Attorney's Office Western District of North Carolina