Auto repair shop owner accused of lying about emissions tests pleads guilty

CHARLOTTE — The owner of an auto repair shop in north Charlotte pleaded guilty to cheating on emissions tests after federal and state agents searched the property earlier this year.

On Jan. 19, Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke got a tip that agents were at Friendly Auto Repair on North Tryon Street. At the time, the agents wouldn’t say what they were looking for.

According to court records unsealed on Oct. 20, federal agents say Friendly Auto Repair is accused of lying to the government about vehicles, making it look like they didn’t need emissions tests.

Investigators said Jamal Saymeh changed more than 11,000 vehicles’ county of registration and more than 3,000 truck types from light duty to heavy duty.

Saymeh is accused of cheating North Carolina out of roughly $80,000 in the process. He has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and violation of the Clean Air Act.

On Wednesday, Saymeh pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Action 9 caught up with Saymeh as he walked out of federal court in Uptown Charlotte, but he wouldn’t comment on the case or his guilty plea.

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.

Saymeh faces up to five years behind bars and a $250,000 fine. His lawyer told Action 9 that Saymeh “accepts responsibility for his decisions and is prepared to face the consequences with the court.”

(WATCH BELOW: Affidavit: Charlotte auto repair shop lied about vehicles emissions tests)