Drivers dropped the right name and a few bucks to pass vehicle inspection
For drivers whose cars were bound to fail an emissions test, there were alternatives to costly repairs. “Joe the Fish” was one.
At Dorchester Auto Services, getting a valid inspection sticker was as easy as mentioning his name, Attorney General Martha Coakley said Thursday in announcing a crackdown on corrupt inspectors and stations.
Ending a yearlong investigation, Coakley filed lawsuits in Suffolk Superior Court against two stations. The state Department of Environmental Protection began administrative enforcement actions against five others.
In all, the investigation concluded that 15 inspectors at the stations fraudulently issued 385 stickers from as far back as December 2006.
The alleged scheme was the same in each case, officials said. Inspectors would issue emission stickers to cars in need of expensive repairs without testing their emissions, and would run tests on another car at the station instead.
Investigators believe drivers paid for the illegal service. How much money they paid remains unclear, although more details are expected to come to light in court, said Jill Butterworth, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.
The stations the state is suing – the one in Dorchester and Hillside Service Center in Somerville – could face fines of up to $30,000 per violation and a permanent loss of their inspection licenses.
According to the lawsuit against the Dorchester station, George C. Nelson doled out 72 stickers illegally and admitted to investigators that he was “Joe the Fish.”
Station owner Hassan Shamseddine disputed that, saying Nelson maintains his innocence.
“We have some malfunction with the equipment,” Shamseddine said. “This is nonsense.”
Nelson, who lives in Cambridge, could not be reached.
In Somerville, station owner Robert Boudreau II said accused inspector Robert J. Greenwood no longer works at the station. He declined to say if Greenwood had been fired.
“I just don’t understand how the Registry could let it go that far,” Boudreau said of the 202 fraudulent stickers the employee is accused of issuing. “Normally after two or three, they would do a lockout.”
Boudreau himself is accused of issuing six.
Last month, the Registry made emissions testing a yearly requirement instead of a biennial one. Parsons Technology, the state’s new vendor, has equipped stations with updated workstations to speed the inspection process and thwart corrupt inspectors.
DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt said weeding out polluting vehicles through the program is “critical to ensuring that the citizens of the Commonwealth have clean air to breathe.”
John P. Kelly may be reached email@example.com.