Three men running an auto inspection shop out of 1st Avenue were arrested earlier today by detectives of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice for passing cars that failed vehicle inspection by falsifying emission reports using an electronic device.
Christopher Alcantara, 28, a city resident, owner of the Five Stars Auto Inspection, an auto inspection place on 1st Avenue; Mariano Alcantara, 51, a Clifton resident, an employee at the inspection place, and the uncle of Christopher Alcantara; Lewis Alcantara-Sosa, 21, a city resident, an employee, and cousin of Christopher Alcantara.
The uncle and two nephews were arrested earlier today at the shop, and charged with computer crimes, tampering with public information, and conspiracy. Out of the three Sosa was the only one released after processing without bail, while the other two remain in Bergen County Jail with bail set at $50,000 for each.
When a customer had a smoking car or a vehicle that simply did not pass inspection at the Motor Vehicle Commission inspection center they would arrange it so the rejected vehicle passed and obtained a valid inspection sticker. Vehicles made after 1996 have what is called an on-board diagnostics, a port in the vehicle, often under the steering wheel, that allows inspection centers to plug a computer to it allowing emission data from the vehicle to pass onto the computer, and that determines whether the vehicle passes inspection or fails.
Alcantara and the two employees would plugin an OBD simulator, a device that allowed them to falsify the data that was supposed to come from the vehicle, and pass vehicles, providing them with inspection stickers after charging customers $150.
Vehicles that fail inspection release harmful pollutants in the air, polluting the environment. “This type of fraud threatens the very air that we breathe, because it results in more poorly maintained vehicles on our roadways and more toxic emissions,” said John Hoffman, acting attorney general, whose office worked in tandem with the State’s department of environmental protection. “We will not tolerate dishonest individuals who seek to turn a profit at the expense of public health and the environment.”
The shop has been passing rejected vehicles for years, according to the State. “It is alleged that, on numerous occasions during the past year, the defendants temporarily installed OBD simulators in place of the data link connector in vehicles that had failed emissions inspections in order to generate false data that enabled the vehicles to pass inspection,” read a statement from the office. At times store employees installed simulators into vehicles, and took them to State inspection centers in Lodi, Paramus, and Wayne.
During the investigation detectives sent informants into the shop with vehicles to find the shop owner and his employees installed the simulator to pass the vehicles. During a raid at the shop on Wednesday detectives seized simulators and records. The alleged charges carry 10-years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, according to the office.