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Trucking company owner sentenced for scheme to tamper with diesel emissions controls

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The owner of a Rhode Island-based trucking company was sentenced after admitting to a scheme to tamper with diesel emissions controls that dates back to 2014.

Trucking Company and ‘Diesel Tune-Ups of RI’ to Pay $250K

On December 13, Michael J. Collins was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a fine of $50,000. He was also ordered to create a compliance and ethics program and to notify his employees and stockholders of said program.

Additionally, the Collins-owned North Kingstown based trucking company M&D Transportation, Inc. and the now-defunct computer company Diesel Tune-Ups of RI, Inc. were each placed on three years of probation and ordered to pay $125,000 each to the Rhode Island Environmental Recovery Fund.

Collins pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act in April 2023.

Diesel Emissions Scheme Advertised on Facebook, Included “Foreign National”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island, starting in September 2014, Collins, M&D Transportation, Diesel Tune-Ups of RI, and a foreign national “all conspired to alter or disable certain functions of the Electronic Control Modules (ECM) and On Board Diagnostic (OBD) monitoring systems of heavy-duty diesel vehicles such as semi-trucks or “big rigs.” These alterations are referred to in the industry as “tunes.””

The “tuning” business was marketed on Facebook using a phone number associated with Collins, M&D Transportation, and Diesel Tune-Ups, and customers paid Collins’ companies between $1,700 and $3,650 for the service.

Collins admitted to authorities that in exchange for a fee, the foreign national would download tuning software through a laptop computer provided by Collins and his companies. The “tunes” could then be downloaded remotely to the truck’s ECM or computer. This would alter the monitoring systems so that they would not detect malfunctions in the emission control components, allowing vehicles to operate without proper emission controls. These altered vehicles could then operate with increased horsepower and torque, which can reduce maintenance and repair costs, but which results in significant increases in pollutant emissions.

United States Attorney Cunha commented, “Our environmental laws are here to protect the clean air that every Rhode Islander deserves to breathe. When companies choose to ignore those laws and put profit over their legal duties, and spew diesel soot and contaminants across Rhode Island and New England in the process, this Office will hold them to account.”

Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge for EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division for New England added, “Tampering with diesel vehicles by installing defeat devices increases emissions of smog and soot, both of which contribute to serious health problems that often disproportionately affect families, especially children, living in underserved communities. Placing profit over public health in Rhode Island has clear accountability.”

The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division – Boston Area Office.

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