CHARLOTTE — We now know why federal and state agents searched an auto repair shop in northeast Charlotte earlier this year after a search warrant affidavit was released to Action 9 this week.
It was January 19 when Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke had gotten a tip that agents were at Friendly Auto Repair on North Tryon Street. About a dozen agents -- including agents from the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation -- were on the scene, armed, and many wearing tactical gear.
At the time, the agents wouldn’t say what they were looking for. Now, Action 9 has more answers.
According to court records unsealed Thursday, federal agents say Friendly Auto Repair lied to the government about vehicles, making it look like they didn’t need emissions tests.
Investigators say the business did that in at least four ways:
- By changing the vehicles’ county of registration
- By saying they were diesel when they weren’t
- By changing truck types from light duty to heavy duty
- By saying the cars were fuel cell models when they weren’t
Federal agents say that on some days, the shop did this in more than half of the inspections it filed. For example, on June 26, 2021, 24 out of 26 inspections allegedly weren’t legitimate.
The court documents are very vague about how much the drivers supposedly knew, but federal agents say they used undercover officers and at least one hidden camera in their investigation.
Stoogenke called the owner. It doesn’t look like he’s been charged with any crime at this point. The owner said to talk to his lawyer, but wouldn’t say who that was; he then hung up.
Action 9 checked state records and found that Friendly Auto Repair has been in business for about six years.
(WATCH BELOW: Buyer Beware: Look out for flood-damaged vehicles from Hurricane Ian)
©2022 Cox Media Group