Two Charlotte men have admitted faking auto inspection results for nearly 1,300 vehicles, federal authorities said Thursday.
Ronald Eugene Kinard and Jack Bard Haney pleaded guilty to violating the federal Clean Air Act by falsifying state-required emissions tests.
For about half of North Carolina's 100 counties, including Mecklenburg, annual emissions inspections connected to federal clean air rules are mandated.
An investigation by The Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh) News & Observer last month found crooked garages have undermined the program by faking results, sometimes for bribes.
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In response, Gov. Bev Perdue said she ordered the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles to conduct a full review of the state's auto inspection system.
The case also comes amid a crackdown against unscrupulous garages. The DMV said it has filed criminal and civil charges against nearly 600 garages and employees who passed cars suspiciously soon after they failed at another garage.
Kinard, 44, owns Autoworks, an inspection garage in north Charlotte. Haney, 47, was an employee.
DMV records show the garage performed 12,381 emissions tests during a recent three-year period. All but 854 vehicles passed.
Inspectors conduct emissions tests by hooking up a car to a machine that checks its computerized emissions system, or onboard diagnostics.
Prosecutors allege Kinard and Haney provided phony passing results by using a substitute vehicle during the tests, a practice known as clean-scanning. They each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for violating the Clean Air Act.
Haney also pleaded guilty to making false material statements during the investigation. Authorities allege he lied when he told an investigator he only falsified inspection results for friends. Haney said he provided fake test results on 20 occasions when, in fact, he had done so more than 100 times, officials said.
That charge also carries a maximum sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine. No sentencing date has been set for Kinard or Haney.