Brian Mellott of Cumberland, Maryland, has been sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to installing “emissions defeat devices in its commercial motor vehicles, which bypassed state inspections regulations and likely released excessive particulates into the air,” federal prosecutors announced.
Mellott is believed to be the first person sentenced for fraud involving aftermarket emissions devices. He was the sixth person to plead guilty in the scheme in U.S. District Court in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The men were charged with impeding the lawful functions of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency and violating the U.S. Clean Air Act. Mellott also admitted to impeding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ability to implement and enforce Pennsylvania’s annual inspection standards for commercial motor vehicles.
The six were linked to Rockwater Energy Solutions of Houston, which transported water and wastewater for Pennsylvania’s hydraulic fracturing industry. The scheme affected about 30 trucks. The devices were used to reduce repair costs and maintenance time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo-Garrison said a government expert estimated use of the defeat devices resulted in 26 tons of excess nitrous oxides plus particulate matter being released into the air.
According to federal documents, “between August 2013 and June 2014, Mellott and others conspired to illicitly disable the emissions control devices in Rockwater’s CMVs. Specifically, they removed the CMVs’ stock exhaust systems and replaced them with straight pipes, or hollowed out the emissions exhaust components by removing environmental filters and elements. The co-conspirators also disabled and manipulated the CMVs’ onboard diagnostics with high-tech ‘defeat’ devices.”
The conspirators included Dennis Paulhamus, owner of DJ Paulhamus Trucking, and Timothy Sweitzer, owner of Sweitzer’s Garage. Both are based in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.
Indictments alleged that the illegal devices were obtained from Paulhamus and Sweitzer. Records falsely indicated that the trucks fitted with the devices had passed inspections at Sweitzer’s Garage, an inspection station certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
In addition to prison time, Mellott also was sentenced to one year of supervised release and 50 hours of community service. The other three men who have pleaded guilty—Gavin Rexer of Jersey Shore; John Joseph of Cannonburg, Pennsylvania.; and Joseph Powell of Hickory, Pennsylvania—were employees of Rockwater.
Sentencing dates have not been set for the other five men.
Prosecutors said the maximum penalty for each federal offense is five years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment and a fine.