Emissions inspectors admit to fraud

A pair of Georgia emissions inspectors admitted giving thousands of drivers bogus clearance certificates, federal prosecutors said.

Jerome Clarence Barnes Jr., and Jared F. Walker pleaded guilty in federal court to fraud, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Barnes, 34, issued more than 4,000 fraudulent emissions certificates between September 2011 and September 2012 to Georgia car owners in Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb counties whose vehicles couldn’t pass the state-required emissions test, charging customers as much as six times the cost of the testing.

“Barnes orchestrated a scheme to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal payments in return for falsely certifying that cars had passed emissions tests,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “By issuing false certificates, not only did Barnes and his co-defendants corrupt the emissions certification system, they also allowed a threat to air quality in Atlanta, and as a consequence, public health.”

When two emissions businesses were shut down because of fraud, Barnes opened testing stations in other peoples’ names to conceal his involvement and fraudulent dealings, court officials said.

If one business was discovered conducting illegal testing, Barnes would move to a different business, prosecutors said.

Walker owned one of the businesses Barnes used, prosecutors said.

To create the false emissions reports, the inspectors Barnes worked with would connect emissions equipment to vehicles they knew would pass emissions, rather than testing the car owners’ real cars – ones that were certain to fail, authorities said.

The companies working with Barnes charged as much as $125 for a test, but state law bans charging more than $25, prosecutors said.

Barnes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces up to five years in prison, according to court officials.

Walker pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and could serve as much as two years in prison, authorities said.

Each of the men could be fined up to $250,000, authorities said.