A North Carolina truck mechanic was sentenced to a year in prison for selling thousands of devices that allowed truck owners to bypass emission control systems and create hundreds of times more pollution than is legally allowed.
Matthew Sidney Geouge, 35, of Hendersonville, NC, pleaded guilty last year to violating the Clean Air Act and tax evasion. In addition to jail time, Geouge was also ordered to pay $1.3 million in fines to the EPA and $1.2 million in back taxes and fines.
Federal prosecutors say that between 2008 and 2017, Geouge sold about 14,000 kits known as “tuners” or “defeat devices” that helped shut down the emissions systems of mostly diesel-powered pickup trucks.
Some drivers believe that federally-imposed emission control systems, which dramatically reduce pollution, hinder the performance of their trucks.
†[Geouge] custom software programs for the tuners known as “tunes” designed to maximize the engine power of certain vehicles, resulting in a significant increase in harmful air emissions,” federal prosecutors in North Carolina said.
In all, prosecutors say Geouge made about $10 million from selling the devices and the custom encryption software that helped them operate without activating the vehicle’s warning systems.
“Today’s vehicles emit far less pollution than vehicles of the past,” said the Environmental Protection Agency, which led the investigation into Geouge’s operation. “Aftermarket manipulation equipment undoes these advances and pollutes the air we breathe.”
The EPA estimates that there are as many as 550,000 medium-sized trucks on the roads in the US that have had their emissions controls tampered with. They estimate that the additional pollution caused by those trucks is equivalent to the emissions of 9 million trucks driving in compliance with the law.
According to court records, Geouge founded Spartan Diesel Technologies in 2008. The company advertised and sold the emissions-shutting devices with programs Geouge had written himself, prosecutors said.
In 2015, the EPA issued a subpoena to Geouge ordering him to stop selling the devices, which prosecutors say he ignored. In 2017, the EPA fined Geouge $4 million, after which he sold Spartan to another company. However, that company continued to use its encryption software under license.
Three of Geouge’s co-conspirators had previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced to three years’ probation and six months of house arrest.
In addition to the EPA violations, prosecutors say Geouge filed no taxes between 2015 and 2019 and illegally used his business accounts to cover personal expenses, such as buying land and building a house on it and buying multiple firearms. and ammunition.
Geouge’s lawyer declined to comment, but in a memo filed with the court pleading for a lenient sentence, he said his client was an experienced mechanic and entrepreneur who had started his business as a legitimate diesel repair shop and that the sale of “tuners” had mostly been a sideline.