Michigan Trucking Companies Face Fines in Federal Pollution Case

Mark Totten, then a Democratic candidate for Michigan attorney general, gives his concession speech during an election night rally in Detroit, Nov. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

By Associated Press

April 27, 2023

MICHIGAN—Eleven people have been charged in Michigan in a scheme to evade air-pollution rules by tampering with software and hardware in heavy-duty diesel engines, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Nine of the 11 have agreed to plead guilty, along with three Michigan-based trucking companies, according to documents filed in federal court in western Michigan.

Diesel Freak in Gaylord agreed to pay a $750,000 fine. Accurate Truck Service and Griffin Transportation in Grand Rapids have each agreed to pay $500,000, court filings show.

Diesel Freak conducted remote engine reprogramming and counted Accurate Truck and Griffin Transportation as customers, authorities said. Authorities said the service boosts engine performance, but the “unlawful modifications” also result in a dramatic increase in the emission of multiple pollutants.

Diesel Freak rigged at least 362 vehicles, from 2015 to late 2018, and some “are still on the road,” US Attorney Mark Totten said. Officials described them as “fleet vehicles” which “drove all over the country.”

Kevin Collins, an attorney for Diesel Freak, owner Ryan LaLone and employee Wade LaLone, said he had no immediate comment. The LaLones have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy.

“We have taken this matter extremely seriously and have fully cooperated with investigating authorities,” Accurate Truck and Griffin Transportation said in a written statement.

The government said Diesel Freak used tools and emissions-cheating software developed by an Italian company and distributed in North America by an Ohio company, which was identified in court documents only as Company 2. The investigation was still ongoing this week, according to federal officials.

‘Gander political correspondent Kyle Kaminski contributed to this report.

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