10 indicted by grand jury in falsified auto emission tests

A federal grand jury in Las Vegas indicted 10 Nevada-certified emissions testers this week after authorities accused them of falsifying hundreds of vehicle emissions test reports, the Justice Department announced Friday.

The defendants were indicted Wednesday, and the indictments were unsealed Friday.

Each defendant faces one felony count of violating the Clean Air Act. They are accused of falsifying reports between November 2007 and May 2009.

"Lying about car emissions means dirtier air, which is especially of concern in areas like Las Vegas that are already experiencing air quality problems," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The grand jury indicted Eduardo Franco, 30; Alexander Worster, 27; William McCown, 48; Joseph DeMatteo, 52; David Eugene Nelson, 46; Louis Demeo, 50; Adolpho Silva-Contreras, 47; Peter Escudero, 47; Wadji Waked, 24; and Gary Smith, 47.

Escudero lives in Pahrump. The other defendants live in Clark County.

According to a statement from the Justice Department, one of the defendants is accused of falsifying more than 700 reports.

The Clean Air Act violations carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Seven of the defendants had been arrested as of Friday, a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Las Vegas said.

Authorities claim the defendants engaged in a practice known as "clean scanning" vehicles. The scheme involved entering a vehicle identification number for a vehicle that would fail the smog check into the computerized system, then connecting a different vehicle the tester knew would pass the test.

According to the Justice Department statement, testers were paid $10 to $100, in addition to the usual emissions testing fee, for performing the falsifications.

The EPA, under the Clean Air Act, requires Nevada to conduct vehicle emissions testing in certain areas because the areas exceed national standards for carbon monoxide and ozone. Las Vegas is required to perform emissions testing.

To obtain a registration renewal, vehicle owners bring the vehicles to a licensed inspection station for testing.