Co-Owner of Clark County automotive shop convicted of violating Clean Air Act

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Tacoma – The co-owner of two Clark County automotive businesses was convicted today of conspiracy and eleven felony counts of violating the federal Clean Air Act for tampering with diesel trucks’ emissions monitoring systems, announced U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Tracy Coiteux, 44, of La Center, Washington, is the co-owner of Racing Performance Maintenance Northwest (known as RPM) and a related sales company called RPM Motors and Sales NW. A jury convicted Coiteux following a three-day jury trial. The jury deliberated for three hours before returning the guilty verdicts.  U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle scheduled sentencing for August 19, 2024.

An indictment returned in May 2021, charged Coiteux and her husband, Sean Coiteux, 50, and the service manager, Nick Akerill, 44, with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and eleven specific violations of the Clean Air Act for tampering with the emissions-monitoring system on vehicles when removing pollution control equipment between January 2018 and November 2020.

Sean Coiteux pleaded guilty in March 2024 and is scheduled for sentencing on August 13, 2024. Akerill pleaded guilty to state pollution charges and was sentenced to work 30 days on a Clark County work crew.

According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, the investigation began when a former RPM employee notified the EPA that the company was performing the unlawful modifications, which are known as “deletes” and “tunes.” A single truck that has been deleted and tuned can cause the same amount of pollution as up to 1,200 trucks with compliant emissions systems. These modifications are marketed to truck owners as improving vehicle power and performance. 

The investigation revealed that between January 2018 and January 2021, the defendants charged their customers fees of about $2,000 per truck to remove (delete) emissions control systems required by federal law. They then modified (tuned) legally required software that works to ensure the vehicle’s pollution remains within legal limits. RPM Motors and Sales sometimes offered, as part of the sale of a truck, to remove the emissions control system after the customer purchased a truck. Email and other electronic records document the conspirators’ purchase of equipment and software kits to remove the pollution control and reprogram the monitoring systems. 

When agents executed a court authorized search warrant in January 2021, they found some of the emissions parts that had been removed and the replacement tailpipes. They found records detailing some 375 instances of removal of the emissions control hardware and software. 

Over the three years described in the court records, the defendants took in more than $500,000 for the modifications that violate the Clean Air Act.

Conspiracy is punishable by up to five years in prison. Each violation of the Clean Air Act is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence will be determined by Judge Settle after considering the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case is being investigated by Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson and Cindy Chang and Environmental Protection Agency Special Assistant United States Attorney Karla Gebel Perrin.

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