Auto shop owner sentenced for falsifying emissions inspections

A federal judge sentenced the owner of a Charlotte auto shop Monday after he pleaded guilty last year for cheating on emissions tests.

The federal judge sentenced Jamal Saymeh to 12 months and one day in prison. He must pay more than $1.2 million in fines and more than $82,000 in restitution to the state.

Federal and state agents swarmed Friendly Auto Repair on North Tryon Street in January 2022.

Prosecutors say he purposely coded more than 15,000 vehicles wrong. Those vehicles would have failed emissions tests.

The repair shop sometimes did “county swaps,” which was when they falsified the county the vehicle was registered in so it appeared that it didn’t need an emissions inspection, prosecutors said.

Saymeh also changed the classification of thousands of trucks from light duty to heavy duty, which would omit them from testing.

Saymeh had customers pay him cash that “far exceeded what customers would have paid to have an emissions inspection” in exchange for falsifying the records, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

It’s not clear if those customers are in any trouble.

The office also says Saymeh only paid the state of North Carolina a fraction of what he should have for certain inspections, investigators said.

Saymeh’s lawyer said the repair shop owner accepts responsibility for his decisions and was prepared to face the consequences.

VIDEO: Auto repair shop searched by federal, state authorities