May 14—A federal grand jury indicted the owners and a manager of a Ridgefield automotive shop on Thursday for allegedly removing pollution-control devices on hundreds of diesel pickup trucks, according to a news release from the United States Department of Justice.
Sean Coiteux, 47, and his wife, Tracy Coiteux, 43, the service manager, Nick Akerill, 41, and the corporate entities they control, Racing Performance Maintenance Northwest in Ridgefield and RPM Motors and Sales NW in Woodland, will appear in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on May 25, according to the news release.
The defendants allegedly "charged their customers fees of about $2,000 per truck to remove emissions control systems required by federal law," between January 2018 and January 2021, the news release stated.
"They then modified legally required software that works to ensure the vehicle's pollution remains within legal limits. RPM Motors and Sales sometimes offered, as part of the sale of a truck, to remove the emissions control system after the customer purchased a truck," according to the news release.
Investigators found emails and other electronic records that documented the purchase of equipment and software kits to remove the pollution control and reprogram the monitoring systems. The modifications, called "tunes" and "deletes," are marketed to truck owners as improving vehicle power and performance, the news release stated.
The individuals were charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and 11 specific violations of the Clean Air Act. Over the three years of their alleged actions, the defendants earned over $500,000 from the illegal modifications, the news release says.
"By removing required pollution control devices, the defendants caused their customers' diesel trucks to spew pollutants into the air at a rate of up to 300 times the pollution caused by compliant trucks," said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman. "These defendants increased toxins in our environment that are linked to cancer, as well as pulmonary, neurological, cardiovascular, and immune system damage. And they collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for doing so."
The Department of Justice press release announcing the case did not say whether investigators will be pursuing charges against customers who paid to have their vehicles modified to violate air quality standards.
The Columbian did not receive a response from the Ridgefield company or its owners after a phone call and an email asking for a response on Thursday.
The charges for conspiracy are punishable by up to five years in prison, and each violation of the Clean Air Act is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the news release.