Undercover Investigation Reveals Employees At Four Of NYC’s Busiest Inspection Stations Okayed Cars Without Conducting Mandatory Safety Reviews

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of four New York City motor vehicle inspectors who issued more than 7,000 fraudulent inspection certificates to untested vehicles. Each defendant was charged with numerous felony counts for violations of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, Penal Law and Environmental Law, which could carry millions of dollars in fines and years in prison.

“These individuals were trusted to perform state-required inspections that keep unsafe cars off the road, but instead they took advantage of their expertise to cheat the system,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office has zero tolerance for misconduct that puts New Yorkers at risk, and will continue to hold accountable those who commit these crimes.”

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said, “When businesses are authorized to conduct vehicle inspections, it is our expectation that those businesses will perform the inspection as required by the Vehicle and Traffic Safety Law and only issue inspection stickers to those vehicles that qualify as safe and operate within Federal emission standards.”

New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “One of DEC’s major priorities is to protect and promote New York’s air quality. As part of this effort, our Division of Law Enforcement has worked closely with other agencies to crack down on vehicle pollution in urban settings to prevent harmful emissions from impacting communities. Attempts to threaten vehicle inspection and maintenance processes can have unsafe and environmentally hazardous consequences and simply cannot be tolerated. DEC will continue to work with the Attorney General and all our partners to enforce the state's emissions inspection criteria and to ensure all environmental protections are enforced."

Every motor vehicle registered in New York State must be inspected annually for safety and appropriate emissions compliance. The defendants were employed at four of New York City’s busiest Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)-licensed inspection stations, which are legally required to use DMV-regulated equipment and follow standard procedures to conduct inspections.

According to the complaints, the defendants bypassed these procedures by performing “clean scans,” a fraudulent process that substitutes data from a secondary vehicle. The inspector first entered the identification number, model information and license plate number for the vehicle in need of certification. The inspector then connected the DMV computer to a secondary vehicle, and used its data to “pass” the safety and emissions tests for the vehicle in need of certification. A fraudulent inspection certificate was issued for the untested vehicle, which would potentially have failed an inspection or was not even present.

The complaint indicates that the defendants charged additional fees for “clean scans.” Motor vehicle inspections are set at $37, but the “clean scans” brought in anywhere from $60 to $100, more than twice the legally authorized amount.

The Attorney General’s office along with the DMV and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) conducted an undercover operation at the four stations. An undercover investigator took a vehicle that was rigged to fail a legitimate motor vehicle inspection to each station, and each station provided passing inspection results to the vehicle even though the inspectors performed minimal or no actual inspection on it.

The following individuals will be charged today:

Arnulfo Echavarria, 61, of New York, a licensed DMV inspector and owner of GT Enterprises Auto Repair Shop (“G.T. Enterprises”), a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 3644 Jerome Avenue, Bronx;
Wil Ramon Manzueta, 21, of Bronx, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of All Prestige Muffler Inc. (“All Prestige”), a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1705 Jerome Avenue, Bronx;
Reynaldo A. Medina, 41, of New York, a licensed inspector at A.R. Tire Center & Services (“A.R. Tire”), a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 2895 Jerome Avenue, Bronx; and
Cirilo Ventura, 45, of New York, a licensed DMV inspector and employee of 1995 First Avenue Station Inc. (“First Avenue Station”), a licensed New York State motor vehicle inspection station located at 1851 Park Avenue, New York.

The defendants are all being charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony that carries a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. Other charges include Issuing a False Certificate, a class E felony carrying a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in jail, and Illegal Issuance of an Emission Certificate of Inspection, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a fine of $15,000 per count, which could subject defendants to millions of dollars in fines if they were to be convicted of all counts.

Flouting these state requirements allows thousands of substandard vehicles to remain on New York roads, leading to increased safety risks for drivers and the significant degradation of New York’s air quality. Stations that utilize “clean scans” also gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding facilities by substantially decreasing both the amount of time and the supply of skilled workers needed to conduct vehicle inspections.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jason P. Garelick of the Environmental Crimes Unit under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief for Criminal Prosecutions Stephanie Swenton, Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Nancy Hoppock.

The investigation was conducted by Environmental Conservation Investigator Kevin Gilmartin of DEC, Division of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, under the supervision of Lieutenants John Fitzpatrick and Francisco Lopez, Captain Joseph Schneider, and Major Scott Florence, along with Investigator Sal Ventola of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus. Assisting in the investigation for DMV were Senior Automotive Facility Inspector Gary Della Torre, Automotive Facility Inspectors Daryl Robertucci, Vito Vitulli, Kevin Sola, Tim Osterhout, Technical Services and John Irving, Director of Clean Air and Technical Services.

The Attorney General recognizes the diligent work of the DEC and DMV staff with whose cooperation the case developed, particularly James Clyne, DEC, Chief, In-Use Programs Section, Division of Air Resources and Chris Ayers, DMV, Director of Vehicle Safety Field Services.

The charges are merely accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.