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Case Number: 1:22-cr-20516
Judge: Kathleen M. Williams
Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Miami-Dade County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Miami
Description: Miami, Florida criminal defense lawyers represented Defendants charged with conspiring to tamper with environmental monitoring devices on diesel vehicles, in violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA).
Defendants Vivian Machado, 62, Eric Flaquer, 39, and the Miami-based companies Quick Tricks Automotive Performance, Inc., and Kloud9Nine, LLC were charged with conspiring to tamper with environmental monitoring devices on diesel vehicles, in violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA).
The purpose of the CAA, among other things, is “to protect and enhance the quality of the Nation’s air resources so as to promote the public health and welfare and the productive capacity of its population.” Motor vehicles, including those with heavy duty diesel engines, cause or contribute to air pollution which may endanger public health or welfare and are thus regulated, including the requirement that manufacturers design and install emissions control systems to treat their exhausts. Those systems are monitored by an on-board diagnostic system (OBD). The OBD is software and sensors that monitor emissions-related engine systems and components. It is a felony to tamper with CAA-required monitoring devices.
Between January 2018 and December 2020, defendants Machado, Flaquer, and Quick Tricks were paid approximately $230,830.61 for 1,100 transactions for the sale of “delete tune files” that tamper with or disable the OBDs on heavy-duty diesel motor vehicles that were required under the CAA to have OBD systems to monitor their emissions control systems. Similarly, between October 2019 and March 2021, Machado, Flaquer, and Kloud9Nine were paid $141,162.70 for an additional 657 “tuner” transactions. The defendants would customize the delete tune files based on the vehicle identification number and desired parameters, and would conduct active customer service for the device customers. Knowing the conduct was illegal, the defendants would often warn customers by e-mail not to tell anyone about the purchases and to take steps to avoid detection by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and “stay under the radar.”
The vehicles at issue in this case were driven in the Southern District of Florida and throughout the United States on public roads and highways. Diesel exhaust contains a mix of acidic and hydrocarbon gases that are harmful to human health. Excess emissions from illegally tampered vehicles can have important environmental justice implications for overburdened communities near major roads and highways. A 2021 study concluded that communities within high vehicle traffic areas are at greater risk of adverse health effects from exposure to diesel emissions. A 2020 study by EPA showed that an average fully deleted diesel truck emits approximately one ton of extra NOx in its lifetime and is equivalent to roughly 16 additional diesel trucks being driven on the road; or put another way, the over 1,700 trucks and engines in this case were akin to approximately 27,000 additional trucks on the road.
U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Charles Carfagno of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Criminal Investigation Division, Southeast Area Branch, announced the sentence.
EPA, Criminal Investigation Division investigated the case. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer prosecuted it.
18 U.S.C. § 371 CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT VIOLATION OF THE CLEAN AIR ACT
Outcome: Flaquer was sentenced to three months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release, with a special condition of six months home detention with electronic monitoring. Machado was sentenced to time served followed by three years of supervised release, with a special condition of ten months of home detention with electronic monitoring. Both companies, Quick Tricks and Kloud9Nine, were sentenced to probation. The defendants were further sentenced to publish a public apology and statement regarding their crimes at the 2023 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show.