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Vehicle inspector sentenced for falsifying emissions tests

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

A vehicle emissions inspector was sentenced on Thursday to two months in federal prison for his role in a scheme that gave passing scores to more than 200 vehicles that violated pollution limits.

Pedro Salmeron, who worked at Charlotte-based Carolina Inspections, is the most recent of 14 people to be sentenced for “clean-scanning” cars and trucks in the Charlotte area. The process involves entering one vehicle’s information into a state emissions database, then using another vehicle to conduct the test.

According to court records, Salmeron conducted 201 illegal inspections from February 2010 until January 2011, falsely passing vehicles that would have otherwise failed.

When Salmeron, 37, is released from federal prison he’ll have to be supervised by a parole officer. He also must pay a $5,000 fine and perform 50 hours of community service.

The punishments of the other 13 people sentenced for clean-scanning ranged from probation to 18 months in prison.

In September, Jose Manuel Cabrera, who prosecutors said was a Charlotte gang member who falsified emissions inspections on 164 cars, was sentenced to a year in federal prison. Authorities say he’d charge $60 a car for a bogus inspection.

The U.S. Clean Air Act requires that cars in 48 of North Carolina’s 100 counties be inspected to make sure they don’t exceed federal limits of compounds that are dangerous to breathe. The act prohibits falsifying records.

Inspectors conduct emissions tests by hooking up a car to a machine that checks its computerized emissions system, or on-board diagnostics.

A 2011 investigation by The Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh) News & Observer found crooked garages have undermined the emissions testing program by faking results, sometimes for bribes.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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