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Park Ridge Man Nabbed In Bogus Auto Emission 'Simulator' Scheme

On-board diagnostic system
On-board diagnostic system Photo Credit: Wikipedia/Michiel1972

PARK RIDGE, N.J. -- A Park Ridge man participated in a scheme to produce positive readings for 127 vehicles that failed previous emissions tests at inspection stations in Lodi and elsewhere, authorities said Tuesday.

Francesco Calabresi, 22, was among the car owners who paid from $150 to $200 to a former motor vehicle inspector and two current inspectors to have a simulator replace the on-board diagnostic (OBD) system that monitors vehicle’s emissions system, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said.

Named along with Calabresi in a state grand jury handed up Monday in Trenton was 38-year-old Lenny Roman of Hoboken, a former employee of Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group, Inc., the contractor that operates central inspection facilities New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

Roman -- who worked at the Secaucus facility before opening the private Lenny’s Diagnostic & Inspection facility in Paterson -- sought out clients whose cars failed inspection, Porrino said.

Working with various co-conspirators, Roman used a diagnostic simulator that he owned "to falsify 131 emissions inspections involving 127 vehicles," the attorney general said.

Most of the bogus inspections were conducted in Secaucus -- the rest at facilities in Lodi and Newark, he said.

Roman -- whose license to run a private inspection facility was suspended during the investigation -- was joined by Evan Pierre-Noel, 27, of West Orange, who is employed by Parsons as a motor vehicle inspector at the Secaucus facility, and Mark Faison Jr., 48, who has the same job with Parsons at the facility in Newark, where he lives, Porrino said.

Pierre-Noel referred clients to Roman and helped operate the simulator, which Faison used during an inspection of his own vehicle and several others, he said.

Calabresi and another man charged in the indictment, Kenroy K. Tyndall, 35, of Newark, "arranged to obtain passing inspection results for their vehicles using Roman’s OBD simulator," Porrino said.

Roman also falsely reported 157 state inspection stickers stolen from his private vehicle in April 2015 so that he could sell them, the indictment alleges.

"One of the stickers was later found on a vehicle owned by a man who had allegedly paid Roman $250 after his vehicle failed inspection," Porrino said. "Two more of the stickers were found when detectives executed a search warrant on Roman’s vehicle."

Most passenger cars and light-duty vehicles manufactured 1996 have an on-board diagnostic (OBD) system that monitors the vehicle’s emissions. Inspectors at state-run or -authorized facilities connnect equipment to a standardized “data link connector” in the vehicle to retrieve OBD data, the attorney general said.

Those charged "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," he said.

“This type of trickery threatens the health of all New Jerseyans by polluting the air that we breathe with more toxic emissions from poorly maintained vehicles,” Porrino said, adding that the investigation was continuing.

“This type of behavior has very real consequences by increasing the volume of pollutants that affect public health and the environment,” state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin added.

Deputy Attorney General Phillip Leahy presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau with assistance from Deputy Attorney General Michael King, Porrino said.

The lead investigators, he said, are DCJ Detective Nicholas Olenick and Investigator Ruben Contreras, MVC Commission Investigator Frank VanWie, Manager James Arose and Compliance Officer Theodore Lefkowich and DEP Engineer Jeffrey Kennedy.

Roman and Pierre-Noel are each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct, violation of the federal Air Pollution Control Act, computer criminal activity and tampering with public records. Roman also is charged with a second count of official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct offense.

Faison is charged with official misconduct, violation of the federal Air Pollution Control Act and tampering with public records. Calabresi and Tyndall are each charged with violation of the federal Air Pollution Control Act.

The case was assigned to Superior Court in Jersey City.

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