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Diesel shop slapped with $750K fine for scheme to delete emissions controls from hundreds of big rigs

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A Michigan diesel shop has been ordered to pay a major fine for a scheme to delete emissions controls from hundreds of big rigs.

Repair shop Diesel Freak, LLC, of Gaylord, Michigan, was ordered to pay a fine of $750,000 after pleading guilty to violating the Clean Air Act, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan. The company must also serve a term of probation.

Additionally, Diesel Freak owner Ryan Lalone and two employees, Wade Lalone and James Sisson, were each sentenced to one year of probation after also pleading guilty to violating the Clean Air Act.

Officials say that Diesel Freak designs and builds electronic monitoring and modification kits that adjust engine power and fuel efficiency through Wi-Fi connections with trucks on the road.  EPA investigators learned that from 2015 through November 2018, Diesel Freak conducted remote reprogramming, or tuning, of on-board diagnostic systems (“OBD”), including deletions of environmental controls, allowing diesel engines for large open-road trucks to work cheaper, without environmental restrictions, causing pollution beyond that allowed by law.  

Diesel Freak allegedly deleted emissions controls from at least 362 trucks.

Ryan Lalone later told authorities that about 70% of Diesel Freak’s business came from full emissions control deletions.

“Holding corporations responsible for environmental crimes is tremendously important,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten.  “This case is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States and today’s sentences send a clear message that polluters who break environmental laws will be held accountable. Environmental rules safeguard the water we drink, the lakes we fish, and the air we breathe. It’s critical that we protect our people and our planet from harmful pollutants.”

In October 2023, trucking companies Accurate Truck Service, LLC, and Griffin Transportation, Inc., both of Grand Rapids, were ordered to pay a combined maximum fine of $1 million ($500,000 each) and serve a year of probation as part of the same investigation.

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