Investigation: Vehicle Inspections - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Investigation: Vehicle Inspections

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TARRANT COUNTY, Texas -

Getting your car inspected is a hassle but it's the law. You've got to do it. It helps keep your car safe and the air cleaner. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex are driving around with fraudulent inspection stickers. About one in six cars could be downright dangerous because of bad brakes or no tail lights. That car might be driving next to you.

Fox 4 watched a Fort Worth inspection station in action. There was just one problem. The cars were not moving. Nothing went in. Nothing came out.

The Same Kia Spectra with a truck behind it sat there hour after hour. The MGN technician moved around and Fox 4 could see him working on the computer but the cars never moved. Fox 4 wanted to know what was going on.

"I wanted to talk to you a little about what has been going on in your shop here?" asked reporter Becky Oliver.

"Right now just working," said Marco Hernandez, the owner of MGN Automotive.

An auto inspection involves an emission and a safety inspection. The technician should check everything from your tail lights to your horn. He should check the blinkers, wipers, speedometer and look under the car. Then all the information is entered into the computer including the vehicle identification number or the VIN.

Here is how it works. On the inside of your car, there is a barcode. When it is scanned, it automatically enters an electronic VIN into the system. This information in the computer is then sent to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or TCEQ. Every vehicle that is a 2005 or newer is required to have an E-VIN.

"If that E-Vin is missing then it means it was a clean scan. It is that simple?" Oliver asked Tim Canas, Commander of the Emissions Task Force in Tarrant County.

"Yes, well it depends on what year the car is but yes," said Canas. "That would indicate a clean scan."

A clean scan is when a shop uses a dummy or surrogate vehicle that can pass an inspection but manually inputs another cars information into the system to generate a sticker.

Fox obtained MGN's records dating back to January. We reviewed 1500 inspections and dozens are missing the E-VIN. Vehicles like a 2007 Rabbit, a 2009 F150 and a 2008 Ranger all showed the

E-VIN missing. Fox also found vehicles where the E-Vin did not even match the one that was manually put into the system.

On June 8, the same E-VIN was registered eight times for eight different cars. Eight cars cannot share the same E-VIN. Again, on February 28 and March 1, the same E-VIN showed up 11 times on 11 different vehicles and not one matched the VIN that was manually put into the system.

"There was a Kia and a truck," said Oliver.

"I cannot say much, it is an ongoing thing so I cannot say anything," said Marco Hernandez.

"You cannot tell us why there was just a Kia in the garage?" asked Oliver. "We didn't see a lot of other cars going in and out of the garage. We got all the state records and we've looked over those state records and we didn't see those other cars going in and out of your shop. And you did inspections on those cars," continued Oliver. "Can I ask you a few more questions sir?"

"No, I'd rather not," said Hernandez shutting the door.

Marco Hernandez is the owner of MGN Automotive. Back in 2011, he was arrested for Tampering with a Government Record but he was never prosecuted. Fox observed him while watching the shop. The technician, Amado Hernandez was doing most of the work on the computer. On the day Fox was watching, records show 10 vehicles were inspected but Fox never saw any of them and the records show the time of the inspection. Not one had an E-VIN recorded. One car, a 2006 Ram is required to have one.

"It's about a 14 million dollar criminal enterprise in Tarrant County alone so that is why they do it," said Canas.

Canas says a person doing fraudulent inspections can be charged with Tampering with a Government Record or Engaging in Organized Crime. Both are felonies and both can land you in prison. Canas says a shop can make an extra $60-$75 on each illegal inspection.

"A lot of money, a lot of money is involved in it," said Canas.

Another day, Fox saw the same Kia in the shop with the pick-up truck behind it again. Records show 4 cars inspected that day but no E-VINS reported. A 2006 Eclipse should have had one.

Fox 4 did see one car where everything matched up. A 2001 Expedition was inspected one day in mid August. Records show the 12 year truck had an E-VIN and it matched exactly with VIN manually submitted.

"There are 240,000 cars in Tarrant County riding around here that are in horrible condition that shouldn't even be on the road, some of them," said Canas. "It's a safety issue."

After Fox 4 submitted our open records request for the MGN inspection reports, the task force busted Marco Hernandez and his technician Amado Hernandez. Both have been charged with Tampering with a Government Record. The arrest affidavit says from July 1 to August 1, Marco and Amado ran 306 inspections and 176 of them were fraudulent and that was just one month.

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