Diesel performance parts retailers GDP Tuning and Custom Auto of Rexburg, Idaho, doing business as Gorilla Performance, as well as the companies’ owner Barry Pierce, pleaded guilty in August to charges related to violating the Clean Air Act (CAA) by tampering with emissions control devices.
The companies and Pierce agreed to pay a total of $1 million in criminal fines. The companies also agreed to implement compliance programs and to not manufacture, sell or install any device that defeats a vehicle’s emissions controls.
GDP Tuning pleaded guilty to an information charging it with conspiracy to violate the CAA. Gorilla Performance and Pierce pleaded guilty to tampering with the monitoring device of an emissions control system of a diesel truck. Under the plea agreement, the companies and Pierce agree to pay a $1 million criminal fine. The shops could face additional fines of $500,000 or twice the financial gain of the offense, per charge, at sentencing, EPA noted. Pierce also faces up to two years in prison.
“Nearly a decade after EPA began cracking down on illegal defeat devices that violate the Clean Air Act, there is no excuse for companies to be continuing to cheat on vehicle emissions and putting the health of the environment and our communities at risk,” says Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA will continue to pursue criminal charges against companies like Gorilla Performance, which broke the law brazenly and repeatedly, until this egregious criminal activity comes to a stop once and for all.”
According to court documents, GDP Tuning conspired with Pierce and others to purchase and sell tens of thousands of tuning devices and accompanying software which, when used together, tampered with vehicles’ on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems. OBDs normally detect any removal and malfunction of a vehicle’s emissions control equipment and record a diagnostic trouble code which will illuminate a vehicle’s “check engine light,” EPA said. If the malfunction is not remedied, some vehicles can go into “limp mode,” derating to a maximum speed of 5 mph as an incentive to have the vehicle repaired.
EPA added that GDP Tuning bought and sold devices and software that allowed customers to reprogram or tune a vehicle’s OBD. This reprogramming tampers with emissions monitoring built into the diagnostic system and allows removal of the vehicle’s emissions control equipment without detection by the OBD. Removing a vehicle’s emissions controls is typically referred to as a “delete” and is accompanied by a “delete tune.”
In addition to GDP Tuning’s national wholesale operation, Gorilla Performance and Pierce operated a retail shop and auto repair facility in Rexburg, Idaho, where customers’ trucks were deleted and tuned.
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 8 before U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill for the District of Idaho.