Two men pleaded guilty in federal court in connection to a scheme to fraudulently issue emissions certificates for cars that would have failed the emissions inspection required by law.
Jerome Clarence Barnes Jr., 34, of Lithia Springs, and Jared F. Walker, 35, of Austell, have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Barnes was responsible for issuing more 4,000 fraudulent emissions certificates to car owners in Georgia from September 2011 to September 2012, falsely stating that the owners’ cars passed the required emissions test. Barnes worked with other individuals to open emissions inspection stations in their names that he would then use to issue fraudulent emissions certificates. Opening stations in others’ names helped conceal Barnes’ involvement in the fraudulent activity.
Officials said Barnes wanted to avoid detection because he previously owned two inspection stations that state authorities had shut down for fraud. When authorities would discover emissions fraud occurring at one of the inspection stations, Barnes continued the fraud at another station that was opened under the name of a different owner.
“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,” United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in Friday’s release. “By issuing false certificates, not only did Barnes and his codefendants corrupt the emissions certification system, they also allowed a threat to air quality in Atlanta, and as a consequence, public health.”
During the scheme, Barnes used two Cobb County establishments— Cleaner Atlanta Emissions and All Clean Emissions—to conduct fraudulent emissions testing. The latter was owned by Walker.
Barnes also used BDH Emissions in DeKalb County, as well as On Time Emissions and Elite Emissions in Fulton County.
Walker and co-defendants Ieka N. Jones, 33, of Winston, and Seretha Franklin, 36, of Acworth, were licensed emissions inspectors who worked with Barnes to issue passing emissions certificates to car owners whose cars would have otherwise failed the emissions test. Instead of connecting the owners’ real cars to the emissions equipment, the defendants connected different cars they knew would pass the test.
The defendants charged $100 to $125 for a fraudulent emissions test, far more than the usual amount charged for a legitimate inspection. Georgia law prohibits inspection stations from charging more than $25 for an emissions test.
Barnes pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud by depriving the State of Georgia and its citizens of their right to his honest services as a licensed emissions inspector. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Walker pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Clean Air Act. The charge carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
Each charge facing the men carries a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing for the two men is scheduled for Nov. 22.The indictment charging Jones and Franklin with conspiracy and Clean Air Act violations remains pending.
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