Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a former motor vehicle inspector was sentenced to prison today for orchestrating a scheme in which he used a data simulator to generate false results for motor vehicle emissions inspections, which rely on data from onboard diagnostic systems. A second former motor vehicle inspector pleaded guilty previously and is awaiting sentencing.
Officials say Lenny Roman, 40, of Hoboken, was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez in Hudson County. Roman is a former employee of Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group, Inc., the contractor that operates central inspection facilities for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Roman worked at the Secaucus CIF until 2010 and later was licensed to operate a private inspection facility in Paterson, Lenny’s Diagnostic & Inspection. Roman pleaded guilty on Dec. 3, 2018 to second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct. He was indicted in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, MVC, and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The investigation revealed that Roman falsified inspections for 127 vehicles in 2015. He sought out clients whose vehicles had failed inspection and typically charged them from $150 to more than $200 to generate passing results for their vehicles using a data simulator.
According to authorities, Evan Pierre-Noel, 29, of West Orange, who previously was employed by Parsons as a motor vehicle inspector at the Secaucus CIF, pleaded guilty on Dec. 3, 2018 to a charge of third-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He is scheduled for sentencing on March 1. The investigation revealed that Pierre-Noel conspired with Roman, using his position as a motor vehicle inspector to refer clients to Roman and assist with a number of the inspections in which Roman’s data simulator was used.
A third defendant, Mark Faison Jr., 50, of Newark, who formerly was a motor vehicle inspector at the Newark CIF, pleaded guilty to a third-degree charge of violation of the federal Air Pollution Control Act. He was sentenced on Jan. 18, 2019 to one year of probation. Faison used Roman’s data simulator to inspect his own vehicle and also inspected several other vehicles with the data simulator while assigned temporarily to the Secaucus CIF.
“Roman and his co-defendants held positions of public trust related to the enforcement of vehicle emission standards, and they instead subverted those standards for their own profit,” said Attorney General Grewal. “These sentences send a message that we will not tolerate fraud that leads to more pollution and threatens the health of our residents.”
“This case is an excellent example of interagency cooperation to investigate criminal conduct that undermined an important governmental function,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to work closely with the MVC and DEP to protect the air that we breathe by guarding against dishonest operators like these defendants.”
Most passenger cars and light-duty vehicles of model year 1996 or later have an onboard diagnostic system that monitors the vehicle’s emissions system. During an OBD inspection, an inspector at a private inspection facility or a central inspection facility connects state-approved inspection equipment to a standardized “data link connector” in the vehicle to retrieve OBD data in order to determine whether the vehicle passes or fails.
The state’s investigation revealed that the defendants participated in the installation of an OBD simulator 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. From October through December 2015, Roman and his co-conspirators used an OBD simulator owned by Roman to falsify 131 emissions inspections involving 127 vehicles. Roman’s license to run a private inspection facility was suspended at the time of the alleged conduct, and most of the fraudulent inspections allegedly were performed at the Secaucus CIF. A smaller number were performed at the Lodi, Wayne, and Newark CIFs.
Police also charged Roman with official misconduct for falsely reporting 157 state inspection stickers stolen from his private vehicle in April 2015.
The investigation revealed that Roman fraudulently reported them stolen so that he could sell them. Roman’s license to operate a private inspection facility was suspended after he reported the stickers stolen because he was not authorized to have the stickers in his vehicle.