Team 10 cameras roll as investigators serve warrants following sting on smog shops

Cheating the system called ‘clean piping'

SAN DIEGO - Only Team 10 cameras were rolling as two smog test shops were raided after the state says they gave passing grades to polluting cars.

The Bureau of Automotive Repair is cracking down on smog shops that "clean pipe".

"Clean piping" is when shops cheat the state required smog test and pass cars that should never be on the road.

State investigators said they have 'Smog Express' on Fourth Street in El Centro on video clean piping, which is a felony.

"He's harming the environment, harming our children and our families," said William Zelenka, field supervisor for the BAR.

Zelenka said it hurts all of us when shops "clean pipe".

"One polluting car can cause 10 to 100 times as much pollution per day, it hurts all of us in the air we breathe," said Zelenka.

San Diego field representatives from the BAR searched Smog Express and seized several pieces of equipment as evidence.

Investigators also served search warrants to the owner of Rosa Panter - a smog shop less than a mile away on State Street.

State officials said the owner would bring in clean cars belonging to family members.

BAR investigators say he would then enter the information of dirty cars into the system and pass them.

"He was entering the wrong vin numbers and license plates into the machines," said Zelenka.

Criminal charges were filed against the owners of both shops. They could face charges of entering false data in the state computer, creating a false document, and perjury.

Team 10 asked the owner of Smog Express if he was clean piping cars, and he said yes. Then he was asked why he was doing something that's considered a felony.

"Just a favor for the people," he said. "You know these people come in and talk to me like they bring in the story like I don't have a job, unemployment. And I need a car to pass the smog," said the owner of Smog Express.

There are 7500 shops that do smog tests in the state.

The BAR hopes this serves as a message to anyone considering clean piping.

Learn more about the BAR's Consumer Assistance Program by clicking here.

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