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New York dealership owner pleads guilty to conspiracy to violate Clean Air Act

Southern Diesel tampered with the emission control monitoring devices and systems, often charging thousands of dollars per vehicle for the modifications

Syracuse, N.Y.—Matthew R. Talamo, 38, of New Haven, N.Y., pled guilty last week in federal court in Syracuse to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act related to his operation of Southern Diesel Truck Co. and Southern Diesel and Off-Road LLC (collectively “Southern Diesel”), in Oswego, N.Y.

United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in New York, made the announcement.

Talamo is the owner and operator of Southern Diesel, which specializes in buying and reselling diesel vehicles and performing after-market modifications to diesel vehicles, particularly pickup trucks. In pleading guilty, Talamo admitted that he conspired and agreed with others to violate the Clean Air Act at Southern Diesel by tampering with emission control monitoring devices and methods on diesel pickup trucks, including both software and hardware modifications.

The illegal software modifications involved “tuning” or “deleting” the trucks by tampering with the “on board diagnostic” (OBD) systems and disabling emission controls, which allowed the trucks to emit substantially more pollutants into the atmosphere. Talamo and his employees also made hardware modifications to diesel vehicles, including by removing tailpipes, mufflers, and other exhaust components and replacing them with so-called straight pipes that lacked diesel particulate filters and other systems designed to reduce harmful emissions.

Between January 2018 and November 2022, Southern Diesel tampered with the emission control monitoring devices and systems of approximately 244 diesel vehicles, often charging thousands of dollars per vehicle for the modifications. Diesel vehicle owners sometimes seek such illegal modifications to avoid the costs of maintaining and repairing emission control components and to increase speed and fuel efficiency.

The charge to which Talamo pled guilty carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors. The defendant will be sentenced on April 19, 2024, by Chief United States District Judge Brenda K. Sannes in Syracuse.

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