SAN DIEGO – The owner of a Chula Vista smog check station is facing trouble after state investigators with the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) uncovered illegal activity involving “clean piping” and “clean plugging.” As a result of that investigation, BAR has suspended the licenses of the station owner and one of his employees for cheating the state’s Smog Check Program.
Bureau investigators found that Pedro Marquez, the owner of Ernie’s Auto Repair and Smog in Chula Vista, and employee Luis Espinoza were “clean piping” and “clean plugging” vehicles to get them through their smog check tests.
“Clean piping” is a term used when a clean exhaust sample from a vehicle that will pass a smog check is used in place of a sample from a vehicle that would not pass a Smog Check. The data from the clean exhaust sample is entered for the vehicle for which the Smog Check certificate is required. In some cases, the vehicle in need of a smog check was not even present.
“Clean plugging” is when a technician plugs the On Board Diagnostics generation II (OBD II) system into a different vehicle from the one that is being tested.
“This illegal activity not only contributes to the pollutants in the air we breathe every day, it hurts the honest business owners and workers who conduct honest and accurate smog checks,” said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). CSLEA is an association of 7,000 law enforcement, public safety and consumer protection professionals who work for the State of California, including BAR investigators.
As a result of this investigation, an administrative law judge has suspended Ernie’s Auto Repair automotive repair dealer registration, smog check license, lamp station license and break station license, along with Espinoza’s advanced emission specialist technician license. BAR will now work to permanently revoke all of those licenses.
Ernie’s Auto Repair is located at 1415 Broadway, Suite 103/104 in Chula Vista.