Local News

Authorities: Durham inspector faked auto emissions tests

Posted April 9, 2012 6:32 p.m. EDT

— A Durham man was part of a scheme to pass hundreds of vehicles that would have otherwise failed state emissions tests, federal authorities said Monday.

Angel Dario Rodriguez Nunez, 30, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act and making a material false statement. He will be sentenced later.

Prosecutors said Nunez worked as a licensed emissions inspector at Express Auto Sales and Services and Car Care Express Auto Sales and Services, both in Durham. From May 2009 to July 2010, he and other unidentified co-conspirators used fake inspections to pass 817 vehicles, taking $150 to $225 from each vehicle owner in return, according to authorities.

The fake tests involved scanning or manually entering a vehicle identification number into the emissions test database and then hooking up a surrogate vehicle to the analyzer to perform the test. The surrogate was usually a vehicle manufactured between 1996 and 1999 that wouldn't generate a vehicle identification number when connected to the emissions analyzer, authorities said.

The surrogate vehicle would then generate a successful emissions test report for the vehicles that wouldn't have passed, authorities said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires North Carolina to conduct vehicle emissions testing in the Triangle and other areas because they exceed national standards for carbon monoxide and ozone.