Three charged in emissions delete case

Court gavel

The final company and the last few individuals charged in a case related to deleting emissions controls on trucks have been sentenced.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten announced Feb. 23 that truck shop Diesel Freak and several individuals were sentenced for violating the Clean Air Act by engaging in an aftermarket scheme to disable the emissions control systems of semi-trucks.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney confirmed the felony convictions of Diesel Freak, LLC, of Gaylord, Mich., and ordered the business to pay a fine of $750,000 and serve a term of probation. It was the largest fine imposed over the course of the case in which the court ordered more than $1.8 million in fines.

Maloney also sentenced the owner of the business, Ryan Lalone, and two employees, Wade Lalone and James Sisson, each to 1-year probation. The hearing concluded sentencing for all 14 defendants charged in the case. In imposing the sentences, Maloney commented on the “systematic violations” of the Clean Air Act he said occurred in the case.

 â€śHolding corporations responsible for environmental crimes is tremendously important,” Totten said. “This case is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States and today’s sentences send a clear message that polluters who break environmental laws will be held accountable.”

Diesel Freak and the individual defendants pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act.

Diesel Freak designs and builds electronic monitoring and modification kits that adjust engine power and fuel efficiency through Wi-Fi connections with trucks on the road, according to a press release from Totten’s office.

During the conspiracy period outlined in the case, which ran from approximately 2015 through November 2018, when Diesel Freak was searched by the EPA, the company conducted remote reprogramming, or tuning, of on-board diagnostic systems, including deletions of environmental controls, allowing diesel engines for trucks to work cheaper, without environmental restrictions, causing pollution beyond that allowed by law, Totten added.

Ryan Lalone estimated that 70% of Diesel Freak’s business was full emissions control deletions. Deleting emissions controls from the vehicles can improve performance and fuel economy and save maintenance costs but is unlawful and causes significant environmental harm, Totten noted.

“Exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to serious health conditions, such as asthma and respiratory illness, and contributes greatly to poor air quality -- concerns the defendants in this case ignored in favor of financial profit,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Lisa Matovic of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. “The sentencings in this case show that EPA and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable individuals who disregard health and environmental laws designed to protect our communities from dangerous air pollution.”  

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