GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A total of three companies and 11 individuals have been charged with violating the Clean Air Act in a scheme to disable emissions control systems on semi-trucks.
According to a news release from U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten, this case is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States.
The corporate defendants are Diesel Freak LLC and Accurate Truck Service LLC of Gaylord, Michigan, and Griffin Transportation Inc. of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The individual defendants are: Ryan Lalone, 47, of Gaylord; Wade Lalone, 44, of Gaylord; Dustin Rhine, 32, of Indian River, Michigan; James Sisson, 42, of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan; Douglas Larsen, 51, of Wayland, Michigan; Craig Scholten, 58, of Byron Center, Michigan; Ryan Bos, 45, of Grandville, Michigan; Robert Swainston, 50, of Hopkins, Michigan; Randy Clelland, 33, of Grand Rapids; Scott DeKock, 45, of Hudsonville, Michigan; and Glenn Hoezee, 55, of Howard City, Michigan.
“Today’s criminal charges send a loud message of accountability to polluters who flout our environmental laws,” Totten said. “These rules not only protect the planet; they also protect people — especially the most vulnerable. They safeguard the water we drink, the lakes we fish, and the air we breathe. To the owners and drivers of the vehicles that participated in this scheme and are now spewing harmful pollutants: get them fixed now.”
The three companies, along with Ryan Lalone, Wade Lalone, Larsen, Scholten, Bos, Swainston, Clelland, DeKock and Glenn Hoezee, have signed plea agreements, indicating their intent to plead guilty to a felony information, according to the news release.
Rhine and Sisson were indicted by a federal grand jury.
Arraignments and change of plea hearings will occur on dates to be set by the U.S. District Court.
According to public records filed in the case, Ryan Lalone owns Diesel Freak LLC, and Wade Lalone, Rhine and Sisson were employed there. Accurate Truck Service LLC is owned by Larsen, Scholten and Bos, and Swainston and Clelland were employed there.
Griffin Transportation Inc. is owned by Scholten and Bos, while DeKock once owned a shipping company at which Hoezee was employed.
According to Totten’s office, Accurate Truck Service LLC removed or altered the emissions hardware components of vehicles with heavy-duty diesel engines. Diesel Freak LLC then reprogrammed the engine computers of the vehicles so that they would continue to function even after the hardware was removed or altered.
This process is sometimes referred to as a “deletion,” that is, “deleting” the emissions controls from the vehicles.
Deleting emissions controls from the vehicles can improve performance and fuel economy and save maintenance costs; however, tampering with or removing emissions controls can drastically increase the emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and non-methane hydrocarbons found in vehicle exhaust.
Exposure to and inhalation of these chemicals at greater levels is associated with serious health risks.
According to the news release, Griffin Transportation Inc. and the company DeKock owned asked Accurate Truck Service LLC and Diesel Freak LLC to delete emissions equipment on trucks owned, operated or leased by the companies.
During the conspiracy, Diesel Freak LLC was involved in at least 362 deletions, while Accurate Truck Service LLC involved in at least 83 deletions, the news release noted.
Further, Griffin Transportation Inc. was involved in at least 12 deletions, and DeKock’s former company in at least four deletions, according to Totten.
Accurate Truck Service LLC and Griffin Transportation Inc. have agreed to pay a combined $1 million fine.
Diesel Freak LLC has agreed to pay a $750,000 fine subject to defense arguments regarding inability to pay.
Any fine is a part of the criminal sentence and ultimately within the discretion of the sentencing judge.
“By illegally tampering with emissions controls on diesel trucks operating throughout the United States and Canada, defendants caused the excessive release of diesel exhaust containing toxic gases and impurities harmful to public health and the environment,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Conrad of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. “This case highlights EPA and our law enforcement partners’ continued efforts to prosecute those who violate environmental and public health laws in the U.S. for financial gain.”
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