A Stockbridge man is facing up to 40 years in prison for issuing hundreds of illegal vehicle emission inspection reports since April at a Conyers business.
Johnathan Morrell, 23, was allegedly issuing the reports while operating emissions equipment at Aghy's Emissions on Lester Road, located off of Sigman Road. Morrell was arrested after a months-long investigation resulted in a search warrant of the property and seizure of the equipment last Thursday. He is charged with two counts of computer forgery and two counts of making false statements.
Environmental Protection Division Investigator Michael Derrick said compliance auditors began identifying suspicious activity at Aghy's in May. The compliance program noticed there were illegal inspections documents coming out of the facility, mainly the issuance of passing inspection reports for vehicles that were not inspected.
"The business was testing one vehicle over and over and the inspector was typing vehicle information into the analyzer and then merging the electronic data from one vehicle with what they just typed in before transmitting information stating the vehicle had passed inspection," Investigator Derrick said. He also said the facility appeared to be closed for business from the outside.
The EPD and Rockdale County authorities conducted surveillance to determine no vehicles were going in and out of Aghy's while inspection reports continued to be sent into the EPD and DMV databases. While serving a search warrant Thursday afternoon authorities found Morrell inside the business and one vehicle they believe he was using to test for each inspection report. The facility was not owned by Morrell and the emissions equipment was not registered to him.
Investigator Derrick also said the compliance program officers made numerous attempts to rectify the situation and issued several notices of violation to Aghy's before finally issuing a notice of revocation, all of which went unanswered while the facility continued to generate false inspection reports. Authorities believe there may be a ring of people involved who approach people whose cars have failed emissions testing and offer to obtain a clean report for a fee.
"We will be talking to the District Attorney's office to see where we want to take this case and see if there are other players we may want to investigate," Investigator Derrick said Tuesday. "We suspect it was a network, just like we are finding in other counties. This is a fairly young investigation."
A similar investigation into illegal emissions testing in Douglas County recently resulted in the arrest of 11 people for racketeering.