Sinister Diesel, a manufacturer of diesel performance parts, pleaded guilty to criminal charges in federal court in Sacramento, California. The company agreed to pay $1 million in criminal fines and civil penalties, implement a compliance program, and stop manufacturing, selling, or installing any device that defeats a vehicle’s emissions controls. The guilty plea was for two counts of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and defraud the United States, and for violating the CAA by tampering with the monitoring device of an emissions control system of a diesel truck. The defendant will pay a $500,000 criminal fine. Sinister must also pay an additional $500,000 under the civil consent decree filed simultaneously with its civil complaint against Sinister. The United States alleged that Sinister violated the CAA’s prohibition against the sale or manufacture of devices that bypass, defeat, or render inoperative emissions controls. The civil consent decree prohibits the company from making, selling or offering to sell defeat products, including delete tuners, and prevents Sinister Diesel from transferring intellectual property that would allow others to make such products. To ensure compliance with these requirements, Sinister Diesel will implement a robust internal training program and notify its distributors and former customers about the settlement. A picture of a truck “rolling coal” that Sinister posted to its Facebook page titled: “Get Serious. Get Sinister.” was presented as evidence in the case.
“Businesses that manufacture and sell illegal devices to defeat a vehicle’s emissions controls foster pollution and risk decades of progress in curtailing harmful emissions from motor vehicles in this country,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The plea agreement and civil settlement show that we will take strong action to enforce the Clean Air Act and ensure that emissions control requirements for cars and trucks are being followed.”
“Sinister Diesel sold products that allowed drivers to strip the emissions controls from their trucks, causing a dramatic increase in the release of pollutants that worsen air quality and harm the quality of life,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. “Environmental laws that control diesel pollution are especially important to protect sensitive populations such as the young, the elderly and people who suffer from respiratory conditions. My Office will continue to vigorously prosecute those who place profit above the public’s health and the environment.”
“For close to ten years, Sinister Diesel sold parts designed to override or disable the emissions control systems on trucks,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA testing has shown that a vehicle altered with these parts can emit more than 100 times the amount of certain harmful air pollutants, compared to a vehicle with an intact emissions control system. This case shows that we will aggressively prosecute those who manufacture and sell devices designed to defeat vehicle emissions controls.”
Sinister Diesel manufactured and sold parts for diesel trucks that allowed the removal or disabling of emissions control systems. These parts were sold as “delete devices” or “defeat devices” and were often sold as part of “delete kits” along with software called “delete tunes” that could alter a truck’s computer to appear to operate normally without emissions controls.
The company also advised customers on other necessary parts for their deleted vehicles to run properly and sold those products as well. Sinister also counseled customers on how to evade state emissions tests.
Although Sinister labeled some of its delete products for “racing” and included disclaimers indicating they should be used only in off-road settings, the company knew most of its delete products were purchased by diesel truck drivers who used them on public roads. At times, approximately 25% of Sinister’s gross revenue came from its delete products. According to sales statistics, between October 30, 2015, and July 17, 2017, Sinister sold 39,792 defeat devices, including at least 35,960 kits that disable vehicles’ exhaust gas recirculation systems.
When a diesel truck is deleted, its emissions increase greatly. For instance, if all emissions equipment is removed from a fully deleted truck, EPA testing has measured the increased emissions as follows: Nitrogen oxides increased 310 times, non-methane hydrocarbons increased 1,400 times, carbon monoxide increased 120 times and particulate matter increased 40 times. According to a report by the EPA’s Air Enforcement Division in November 2020, over 500,000 diesel pickup trucks in the United States, which is about 15% of U.S. diesel trucks that were originally certified with emissions controls, have been illegally deleted.
Diesel emissions contain multiple hazardous compounds that are harmful to human health and the environment. They have been found to cause and worsen respiratory ailments such as asthma and lung cancer. A study indicates that 21,000 American deaths yearly are linked to diesel particulate matter. Moreover, exposure to polluted air while in the womb has been tied to a variety of problems with lifelong effects like low birth weight, preterm birth, autism, asthma, and brain and memory disorders.
The defendant is set to receive a sentence in the criminal case on November 14, 2023, from U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez for the Eastern District of California. Although Sinister Diesel accepted to pay a $500,000 criminal fine under its plea agreement, the company faces a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense for each count. The court will determine the sentence at its discretion, taking into account all applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which consider many variables.
In-Article Image CreditsRolling Coal advert from Sinister Diesel via Sinister Diesel with usage type - News Release Media
Featured Image CreditRolling Coal advert from Sinister Diesel via Sinister Diesel with usage type - News Release Media