Washington, DC - The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Friday announced a settlement with Punch It Performance and Tuning and Michael Paul Schimmack — and other companies and individuals close to Schimmack (Defendants) — resolving alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) associated with the manufacture and sale of aftermarket products that defeat the emissions control systems of motor vehicles.
The complaint also alleged that certain defendants fraudulently transferred assets after learning of the EPA claims in an effort to avoid payment of penalties in the case.
Under the settlement, lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, defendants, who have stopped manufacturing and selling defeat device products, will pay a civil penalty of $850,000. The defendants also agree to stay out of the business of selling the illegal products, to surrender the computer code used in the products and to stop providing technical and warranty support for the defeat devices already sold.
“Companies and individuals who deal in aftermarket defeat devices are threatening the public’s health and violating federal law,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark. “The Department of Justice is committed to ending this illegal trade, seeking justice for those harmed from this fraudulent activity, and encouraging compliance in the automotive industry through strong enforcement.”
“EPA will vigorously pursue and prosecute companies who attempt to circumvent emission controls that are required to reduce air pollution,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine. “This case illustrates why stopping the manufacture, sale, and installation of aftermarket defeat devices is an EPA National Compliance Initiative.”
“The Middle District of Florida remains committed to enforcing the Clean Air Act,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “The settlement announced today is a clear statement of our office’s commitment to protect our citizens and the environment.”
The defendants manufactured and/or sold more than 20,000 aftermarket defeat devices. These products were designed for a range of certified motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines including vehicles manufactured by Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler. The aftermarket products sold by defendants included hardware components and electronic tuning software, known as “tunes,” that hack into and reprogram a motor vehicle’s electronic control module to alter engine performance and enable the removal of filters, catalysts and other critical emissions controls that reduce air pollution.
Under the CAA, it is illegal to manufacture or sell parts or components for motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines that bypass, defeat, or render inoperative elements of design that were installed by the vehicle or engine original equipment manufacturer to comply with CAA emission standards. The complaint filed in the case alleges that each act of manufacturing and each sale constitutes a violation of the CAA.
In addition, the complaint asserts that after EPA notified the defendants in 2016 of its intent to take enforcement action, the corporate defendants transferred real estate and large sums of money to one or more of the individual defendants in their personal capacities. The U.S. alleges these were fraudulent transfers under the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act.
In addition to their civil penalty of $850,000, defendants will also do the following:
- Surrender all intellectual property to EPA, including programming, files, software, source code, design, instructions, or other information that could be used to manufacture tunes;
- Certify that no products have been manufactured or sold since March 2017;
- Certify that no intellectual property has been transferred to any party other than EPA; and
- Refuse to provide technical support or honor warranty claims for products subject to the consent decree.
EPA has recently begun a National Compliance Initiative on Stopping Aftermarket Defeat Devices for Vehicles and Engines. To read about EPA’s National Compliance Initiative visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-stopping-aftermarket-defeat-devices-vehicles-and-engines.