For Immediate Release - February 02, 2010

Framingham Man Pleads Guilty to Charges of Unlawfully Issuing State Inspection Stickers to Untested Vehicles

WOBURN - The operator of a Framingham auto repair shop pled guilty in Middlesex Superior Court yesterday to issuing state inspection stickers for vehicles that would not pass inspection. Samuel Bicalho, 23, of Framingham, pled guilty yesterday to charges he improperly issued state inspection stickers (4 counts), and for violating Massachusetts Clean Air Act regulations designed to prevent pollution or contamination to the atmosphere (8 counts). Following a plea of not guilty to guilty, Judge Wendie Gershengorn sentenced Bicalho to two years of probation and to pay $10,000 to the Commonwealth for the cost of prosecution. Bicalho is also not permitted to conduct any vehicle inspections during the pendency of his probation.

An investigation conducted by authorities determined that Bicalho conducted tests on a different motor vehicle and then used the results from that test to issue a passing inspection sticker to the vehicle that came in for the inspection. This practice, known as "clean scanning," undermines the purpose of the emissions inspection process, can cause increased air pollution, and is illegal. Authorities determined Bicalho, a licensed state inspector, issued false inspection stickers at ZE Carlos Auto Repair, located at 243 Howard St., Framingham, or at a nearby restaurant at significant mark-ups, on at least four occasions without conducting an inspection on those vehicles.

The charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (ECSF), an interagency unit that includes prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General's Office, and attorneys, investigators and engineers from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The investigation also included an undercover operation conducted by State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office, technical data from MassDEP's Vehicle Check Program, information from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and assistance from the Framingham Police Department. The case initially started with a motorist's complaint to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which was then referred to the MassDEP Strike Force.

Each of these false inspections involved an on-board diagnostic (OBD) emissions test. The OBD test is a simple test in which an inspector plugs the scan tool from an inspection workstation into the vehicle's OBD connector, and the workstation's computer queries the vehicle's computer for the status of the emissions control system monitors. Authorities found Bicalho did not conduct an OBD test on the motor vehicles that were subject to the test as required under the Enhanced Emissions and Safety Test Program. The Enhanced Emissions and Safety Test Program is an important part of the state's effort to protect air quality.

A Middlesex Grand Jury returned the indictments against Bicalho on June 11, 2009. Bicalho was arraigned on June 24, 2009 in Middlesex Superior Court. Bicalho changed his plea from not guilty to guilty and was sentenced to two years of probation.

The ECSF is overseen by Attorney General Martha Coakley, MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian A. Bowles. The ECSF investigates and prosecutes crimes that harm the state's water, air, land or that pose a significant threat to human health, safety, welfare or the environment.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of the Environmental Crimes Strike Force. Pamela Talbot, who directs the MassDEP Strike Force, worked with lead investigators Steve Spencer and John Flemmi on this case. Craig Woleader from MassDEP's Vehicle Check Program provided technical expertise regarding the OBD analysis.

Members of the public who have information regarding a potential environmental crime are encouraged to contact the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Hotline at 1-888-VIOLATE (846-5283) or the Attorney General's Office at 617-727-2200.