CHARLOTTE — We now know why federal and state agents searched an auto repair shop in northeast Charlotte earlier this year after a search warrant affidavit was released to Action 9 this week.
It was January 19 when Jason Stoogenke of Action 9 learned that agents were at Friendly Auto Repair on North Tryon Street. About a dozen officers — including agents from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation — were at the scene, armed and many wearing tactical gear.
Back then, agents wouldn’t say what they were looking for. Now action 9 has more answers.
According to unsealed court records Thursday, federal agents say Friendly Auto Repair lied to the government about the vehicles, making it look like they didn’t need emissions testing.
Investigators say the company did this in at least four ways:
- By changing the vehicle registration county
- Saying they were diesel when they weren’t
- By changing truck types from light to heavy
- Saying the cars were fuel cell models when they weren’t
Federal agents say on some days the store did so in more than half of the inspections it filed. For example, on June 26, 2021, 24 out of 26 inspections were not legitimate.
Court documents are very vague about what the drivers supposedly knew, but federal agents say they used undercover agents and at least one hidden camera in their investigation.
Stoogenke called the owner. It does not appear that he has been charged with a crime at this point. The owner said to speak to his lawyer, but did not say who it was; he then hung up.
Action 9 checked state records and found that Friendly Auto Repair had been in business for about six years.
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