3 companies charged in diesel-engine emissions tampering case

Three Michigan companies and eleven individuals have been accused of disabling emissions controls on semi-trucks, violating the Clean Air Act in an aftermarket scheme. While the investigation is ongoing, this case already is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States.

The corporate defendants are Diesel Freak LLC, of Gaylord, Michigan, and Accurate Truck Service LLC and Griffin Transportation Inc., of Grand Rapids, Michigan

“Today’s criminal charges send a loud message of accountability to polluters who flout our environmental laws,” Mark Totten, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said in a statement. “These rules not only protect the planet; they also protect people – especially the most vulnerable. They safeguard the water we drink, the lakes we fish, and the air we breathe. To the owners and drivers of the vehicles that participated in this scheme and are now spewing harmful pollutants: get them fixed now.” 

The individual defendants, all from Michigan, are:

  • Ryan Lalone, 47, of Gaylord
  • Wade Lalone, 44, of Gaylord
  • Dustin Rhine, 32, of Indian River
  • James Sisson, 42, of Mt. Pleasant
  • Douglas Larsen, 51, of Wayland
  • Craig Scholten, 58, of Byron Center
  • Ryan Bos, 45, of Grandville
  • Robert Swainston, 50, of Hopkins
  • Randy Clelland, 33, of Grand Rapids
  • Scott DeKock, 45, of Hudsonville
  • Glenn Hoezee, 55, of Howard City

The three companies, Ryan Lalone, Wade Lalone, Larsen, Scholten, Bos, Swainston, Clelland, DeKock and Hoezee have all signed agreements indicating their intent to plead guilty to a felony.  Dustin Rhine and James Sisson were indicted by a federal grand jury.  Arraignments and change of plea hearings will occur on dates to be set by the U.S. District Court.

According to public records, Ryan Lalone owns Diesel Freak, and Wade Lalone, Rhine and Sisson were employed there.  Accurate Truck Service is owned by Larsen, Scholten and Bos, and Swainston and Clelland were employed there. Griffin Transportation is owned by Scholten and Bos.  DeKock used to own a shipping company at which Hoezee was employed.

Accused of ‘deleting’ emission controls

Mark Totten
Mark Totten

According to the government, Accurate Truck Service removed or altered the hardware components that controlled the emissions of vehicles with heavy-duty diesel engines. Diesel Freak is accused of reprogramming the engine computers of the vehicles so that they would continue to function even after the hardware was removed or altered.  This process is sometimes referred to as a “deletion,” that is, “deleting” the emissions controls from the vehicles.  

Deleting emissions controls can improve performance and fuel economy and save maintenance costs.  Tampering with or removing emissions controls also can drastically increase the emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and non-methane hydrocarbons in vehicle exhaust.  Exposure to and inhalation of these chemicals at higher levels is associated with serious health risks.

The government says Griffin Transportation and the company formerly owned by DeKock engaged Accurate Truck Service and Diesel Freak to “delete” trucks owned, operated, or leased by the companies.  During the conspiracy, Diesel Freak reportedly was involved in at least 362 deletions; Accurate Truck Service in at least 83 deletions; Griffin Transportation, in at least 12 deletions; and DeKock’s former company in at least four deletions.  

Million-dollar penalties

Accurate Truck Service and Griffin Transportation have agreed to pay a combined $1 million fine, the government says. Diesel Freak has agreed to pay a $750,000 fine subject to defense arguments regarding inability to pay.  Any fine is a part of the criminal sentence and ultimately within the discretion of the sentencing judge.

 “By illegally tampering with emissions controls on diesel trucks operating throughout the United States and Canada, defendants caused the excessive release of diesel exhaust containing toxic gases and impurities harmful to public health and the environment,” said Richard Conrad, acting special agent in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. “This case highlights EPA and our law enforcement partners’ continued efforts to prosecute those who violate environmental and public health laws in the U.S. for financial gain.”   

The charges in an indictment are accusations and are not evidence of guilt.  A conviction for conspiracy is subject to a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000 for an individual, $500,000 for an organization, or twice the gain from the offense, among other penalties.  A conviction for violating the Clean Air Act carries a prison term of up to two years and the same fines, among other penalties.


Adoption of California emission standards by other states could impact industry

Share this post