by: Rachel Stockman Updated:
Federal prosecutors charged four metro Atlanta people with faking emission tests on thousands of cars.
Investigators believe 34-year-old Jerome Clarence Barnes recruited three others, who are also facing federal conspiracy charges.
They performed more than
4,000 fraudulent emission inspections and issued emission certifications falsely stating that the identified vehicle passed the emission test, according a federal grand jury indictment.
The federal grand jury accused the defendants of soliciting and accepting payment from vehicles' owners from $100 to $125. Georgia law prohibits inspections stations from charging more than $25 for an emission test. Investigators say the defendants would then enter the fraudulent information into a state database.
Attorney Bill Thomas, who represents Barnes, says his client is innocent.
"Mr. Barnes did not own any of these shops. There is no evidence that he conducted any of these tests," Thomas said.
Attorneys for the other three defendants, Seretha Franklin, Ieka Jones, and Jared Walker, also told Channel 2's Stockman that their clients are innocent of the charges.
Investigators believe the scheme spanned three counties, including Fulton, Cobb and Dekalb, including a shop on Covington Highway in Dekalb County.
Dekalb County Emissions Inspector Elijay Jackson says he does everything by the book but says the alleged scheme is not surprising.
"People that go the extra mile to cheat, they find a way to make it easy," explained Jackson.
Jackson says most cases of fraud are on
older-model cars because inspectors just need a VIN, and they can preform the emission tests on an alternative vehicle that would pass the test.
easy?" Stockman asked.
"Yes," replied Jackson.
The defendants are facing conspiracy charges. They are also accused of violating the Clean Air Act. A judge has not yet set a court date for the trial.