Trio pleads guilty to falsifying emissions tests

Three former emissions inspectors have pleaded guilty to falsifying more than 1,400 tests in exchange for cash.

James Hinton, 41, of Riverdale, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to violating the Clean Air Act, according to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. Two others, Michael Kelly, 40, and Jackie Baker, 52, both of Atlanta, pleaded guilty last month in the same case.

“Emissions inspectors who issue passing certificates to deficient cars not only commit fraud, they harm our environment by allowing the continuous release of dangerous pollutants into the air we breathe," Yates said in a statement. "These defendants were willing to ignore the long-term damage they were causing in exchange for under-the-table payments they received for each fraudulent certificate.”

Hinton, Kelly and Baker were accused of falsifying more than 1,400 test while working at a "Stop N Shop" in College Park during a five-month period in 2009, Yates said. The three lost their licenses in May of that year.

Instead of connecting the owners’ real cars to the emissions equipment, the defendants connected different cars they knew would pass the test, Yates said. The three charged the vehicle owners $100 to $125, rather than the typical $20 fee.

State law caps the fee for emissions tests at $25.

Hinton, Kelly and Baker were indicted by a federal grand jury in February. Sentencing is scheduled for June. If convicted, each man could receive a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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