Rick Bannan / [email protected]
A Ridgefield auto shop manager was ordered to pay $10,000 and perform 240 hours of community service after illegally modifying hundreds of diesel trucks to circumvent emissions controls.
On September 21, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Nicholas Akerill’s fine and sentence in Clark County District Court. Akerill worked for RPM Northwest in Ridgefield and, alongside business owners Sean and Tracy Coiteux, was federally charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act in May 2021, according to a probable cause affidavit.
During the investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigations Division determined that the auto shop “provided services that unlawfully modified diesel vehicle emission control systems,” the agency said. affidavit.
Washington’s Clean Air Act “prohibits a person from removing or rendering inoperable any component or altering any element of the design of a motor vehicle…that could affect the amount of airborne contaminants emitted from that vehicle.”
Invoices seized during the investigation showed that between around January 1, 2018 and around January 20, 2021, the auto shop modified the emissions control system of around 375 diesel trucks, raising more than $536,000 charge for the service, the affidavit states.
The affidavit said Akerill and the owners agreed to make the modifications, which ranged from $1,000 to $2,000, to remove emissions control hardware from a truck and adjust the vehicle’s programming so it wouldn’t. recognize missing equipment.
As the manager, Akerill instructed RPM Northwest employees to perform the deletions, called “removals,” according to the affidavit. A former mechanic for the company told investigators that Akerill made all the “adjustments” to the diesel vehicles using his mobile phone to reprogram the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system.
To hide the illegal changes, the company referred to the work on the invoices as an “upgrade” sometimes accompanied by a “D” or a “T” to indicate “removal” or “agreement” respectively. indicates the affidavit. Akerill and the owners of the company did not discuss work with customers over the phone or advertise the services. They discouraged discussion of the services on social media to conceal the activity.
Akerill directed the deletions and completed the tracks “under the direction of, and with the full knowledge and consent of, the owners,” the affidavit states.
A search of the vehicles listed as having illegal modifications by an EPA inspector confirmed that the trucks had received the work, according to the affidavit.
Ferguson said on Twitter that his environmental crimes team won three guilty pleas for removing emissions controls on diesel trucks, including those from Akerill.