Officials Seek Help to Hunt Down Environmental Fugitives

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Did you think that the Clean Air Act applied only to companies? Think again. Certain violations of the Clean Air Act are considered criminal violations, and individuals may be subject to prosecution. (A tip: Do not file falsified reports or data to the agency.)

Joseph DeMatteo of Clark County, Nev., is listed on the EPA fugitive Web site for failing to surrender to federal law enforcement authorities following his indictment for criminal violations of the Clean Air Act.

“EPA is serious about enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and making sure that those who are charged with criminal violations are held accountable,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The public can help EPA achieve its mission by reporting any information they have on the whereabouts of Mr. DeMatteo to EPA’s fugitive Web site or local law enforcement.”

DeMatteo was one of ten Nevada-certified emissions testers indicted on Jan. 6 by a federal grand jury for one felony count for falsifying vehicle emissions test reports in Las Vegas between Nov. 2007 and May 2009. The maximum penalty for the felony violations in the indictment includes up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Las Vegas is required to perform emissions testing because currently it violates ozone and carbon monoxide standards. Ozone is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Carbon monoxide can cause harmful health effects by reducing oxygen delivery to the body’s organs.

All of the defendants, including DeMatteo, are alleged to have engaged in a practice known as “clean scanning” vehicles. The scheme involved entering the vehicle identification number for a vehicle that would not pass the emissions test into the computerized system, then connecting a different vehicle the testers knew would pass the test. The allegedly falsified data was recorded on the vehicle inspection report, and an inspection report passing the vehicle was issued for anywhere from $10 to $100 more than the usual emissions testing fee.

It is a crime to alter knowingly or conceal any record or other document required to be maintained by the Clean Air Act. An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

More information on individuals charged with environmental violations can be found on EPA’s environmental fugitive Web site.

Article by Roger Greenway appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

photo: EPA poster

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