A Hoboken man was sentenced to five years in prison using data tests to falsify emission tests used by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Lenny Roman, 40, of Hoboken, was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez.
Roman is a former employee of Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group, Inc., the contractor that operates central inspection facilities (CIFs) for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).
Roman worked at the Secaucus CIF until 2010 and later was licensed to operate a private inspection facility in Paterson, Lenny’s Diagnostic & Inspection.
On December 3rd, 2018, Roman pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct. He was indicted as par of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, MVC, and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The investigation revealed that Roman falsified inspections for 127 vehicles in 2015. He sought out clients whose vehicles had failed inspection and typically charged them from $150 to more than $200 to generate passing results for their vehicles using a data simulator.
Evan Pierre-Noel, 29, of West Orange, who previously was employed by Parsons as a motor vehicle inspector at the Secaucus CIF, pleaded guilty on the same day to a charge of third-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He is scheduled for sentencing on March 1.
The investigation revealed that Pierre-Noel conspired with Roman, using his position as a motor vehicle inspector to refer clients to Roman and assist with a number of the inspections in which Roman’s data simulator was used.
A third defendant, Mark Faison Jr., 50, of Newark, who formerly was a motor vehicle inspector at the Newark CIF, pleaded guilty to a third-degree charge of violation of the federal Air Pollution Control Act.
On January 18th, he was sentenced to one year of probation. Faison used Roman’s data simulator to inspect his own vehicle and also inspected several other vehicles with the data simulator while assigned temporarily to the Secaucus CIF.
Deputy Attorney General Danielle Scarduzio took the guilty pleas and Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline Smith handled today’s sentencing hearing for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.
“Roman and his co-defendants held positions of public trust related to the enforcement of vehicle emission standards, and they instead subverted those standards for their own profit,” Grewal said in a statement. “These sentences send a message that we will not tolerate fraud that leads to more pollution and threatens the health of our residents.”
Most passenger cars and light-duty vehicles of model year 1996 or later have an onboard diagnostic (OBD) system that monitors the vehicle’s emissions system.
During an OBD inspection, an inspector at a private inspection facility (PIF) or a central inspection facility (CIF) connects state-approved inspection equipment to a standardized “data link connector” in the vehicle to retrieve OBD data in order to determine whether the vehicle passes or fails.
The state’s investigation revealed that the defendants 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.
From October through December 2015, Roman and his co-conspirators used an OBD simulator owned by Roman to falsify 131 emissions inspections involving 127 vehicles.
Roman’s license to run a private inspection facility was suspended at the time of the alleged conduct, and most of the fraudulent inspections allegedly were performed at the Secaucus CIF. A smaller number were performed at the Lodi, Wayne, and Newark CIFs.
Roman also was charged with official misconduct for falsely reporting 157 state inspection stickers stolen from his private vehicle in April 2015.
The investigation revealed that Roman fraudulently reported them stolen so that he could sell them, officials said.
Roman’s license to operate a private inspection facility was suspended after he reported the stickers stolen because he was not authorized to have the stickers in his vehicle, authorities said.