TPS sister publication Overdrive first reported last week that three companies and 11 individuals have been charged with violating the Clean Air Act in an aftermarket scheme to disable the emissions control systems of heavy-duty trucks.
Though the investigation is still ongoing, the case “is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States,” says U.S. Attorney Mark Totten.
The three companies charged are Diesel Freak LLC, of Gaylord, Mich.; Accurate Truck Service, LLC, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Griffin Transportation, Inc., also of Grand Rapids.
Nine of the 11 individuals charged have signed plea agreements indicating their intent to plead guilty to a felony information. The two other defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury. Arraignments and change of plea hearings will occur on dates to be set by the U.S. District Court.
According to a press release, Accurate Truck Service removed or altered the emissions-control hardware components of vehicles with heavy-duty diesel engines. Diesel Freak reprogrammed the engine computers of the vehicles so they would continue to function even after the hardware was removed or altered. Known as “deleting” emissions controls, the above process can improve performance/fuel economy and save maintenance costs, but it also increases emissions output.
Griffin Transportation and the company DeKock formerly owned engaged Accurate Truck Service and Diesel Freak to “delete” trucks owned, operated or leased by the companies. During the investigation, Diesel Freak was found to be involved in at least 362 deletions; Accurate Truck Service in at least 83 deletions; Griffin Transportation in at least 12 deletions; and DeKock’s former company in at least four deletions.
Accurate Truck Service and Griffin Transportation have agreed to pay a combined $1 million fine. Diesel Freak has agreed to pay a $750,000 fine subject to defense arguments regarding inability to pay. Any fine is a part of the criminal sentence and ultimately within the discretion of the sentencing judge.
A conviction for conspiracy is subject to a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000 for an individual, $500,000 for an organization, or twice the gain from the offense, among other penalties. A conviction for violating the Clean Air Act carries a prison term of up to two years and the same fines, among other penalties.