CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The owner and operator of an auto repair shop in Charlotte was sentenced to prison Monday for violating the Clean Air Act, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors said Jamal Saymeh, 59, fraudulently coded over 15,000 vehicles that would have otherwise failed the required North Carolina emissions inspection.

Saymeh owns and operates Friendly Auto Repair which became licensed in 2017 by NCDOT to perform emissions inspections.

Court documents showed that between 2017 and 2022, Saymeh used his business to violate the Clean Air Act by falsely changing the information of vehicles that would have failed the required tests so that they were no longer required by the State’s registration system to have a passing emissions test.

Court records alleged Saymeh executed his scheme by doing “county swaps.” The “swaps” were done by falsifying in the system the county of registration for 11,568 vehicles from a county that required an emissions test to a county that did not require the testing.

He’s also accused of changing in the system the characterization of 3,622 trucks from light-duty trucks that require inspections to heavy-duty trucks that did not.

In total, court records said Saymeh falsified information for at least 15,190 vehicles that otherwise would have failed State emissions inspections.

Prosecutors said Saymeh received cash payments from customers that far exceeded what customers would normally have to pay for an inspection in exchange for falsifying the information. He also reportedly paid North Carolina only $0.85 per non-emissions/safety inspection, instead of the $6.35 per vehicle charge he would have paid for an inspection.

“Vehicle emissions testing is required to protect the health and safety of our communities,” said U.S. Attorney King. “As part of my Office’s Environmental Justice Initiative, we will hold polluters accountable for their actions and protect communities harmed by environmental violations.”

Saymeh pleaded guilty on December 14, 2022, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the Clean Air Act and two counts of violating the Clean Air Act.

On Monday, he was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and ordered to pay a $1,202,288.50 fine and $82,026 restitution to the State of North Carolina.