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Gastonia Man Handed 6 Month Prison Sentence for Vehicle Emissions Fraud

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Defendant Delivered Fraudulent Emissions Certificate to Undercover Agents in Exchange for Cash

ATLANTA – A Gastonia man was sentenced late Wednesday, January 22, 2014, to serve six months in prison for producing a fraudulent vehicle emissions certificate to undercover agents, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Chief U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney also sentenced Mohammed Hafeez Awan, 52, of Gastonia, to three years of supervised release, six months of which Awan will spend in home confinement. Awan was also ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and to a pay a $1,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Special Agent in Charge Maureen O’Mara of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), Atlanta Area Office; Greg McLeod, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI); and Steven M. Watkins, Director of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau (NC DMV License & Theft Bureau).

According to court records and yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Awan is the former owner of Prestige Car Care (Prestige), an automobile repair shop and state licensed vehicle emissions station in Charlotte. In 2005, as a result of a state investigation into illegal emissions inspections, it was determined that Awan and his employees conducted the fraudulent inspections, commonly referred to as “clean scanning,” by connecting Prestige’s emission testing equipment into a designated surrogate vehicle that would pass the state’s emission testing requirements. As a result of that investigation, the NC DMV License & Theft Bureau suspended Prestige’s safety/emissions inspection license for a period of 11 years.

According to yesterday’s sentencing hearing, in September 2011, while Awan’s shop was no longer able to conduct emissions inspections, Awan conspired with Jassim Juburi, a former employee of Central Auto Inspection & Repair in Charlotte to continue this practice. According to court documents, law enforcement agents working undercover paid Awan $150.00 in exchange for a fraudulent vehicle emissions certificate and without ever producing a vehicle to be inspected. The fraudulent emissions test and certificate were generated by Awan’s co-conspirator, Jassim Juburi, a former employee of Central Auto Inspection & Repair in Charlotte. Juburi was previously sentenced to an 18-month prison term for conducting more than 530 illegal “clean scan” inspections.

The Clean Air Act requires vehicle emission inspections in geographic regions that exceed national ambient air quality standards. According to the EPA, the Charlotte metropolitan area exceeds the 8-hour standard set for Ozone, a potent irritant that can cause lung damage and other types of respiratory problems.

In March 2012, Awan pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act by conducting false vehicle emissions inspections. Awan was ordered to self-report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The investigation of this case was conducted by the EPA’s criminal investigation division, NC SBI’s Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit, and NC DMV License & Theft Bureau, with assistance from the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, Mobile Sources Compliance Branch. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Steven R. Kaufman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.

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