TRAVIS COUNTY -- Manufacturing fictitious and counterfeit motor vehicle inspection certificates is big business for criminals, gangs and cartel members.
Through the Travis County Counterfeit Motor Vehicle Inspection Program and Emissions Taskforce, Constables have been cracking down during an initiative between August 2010 - October 2012. They've made 22 arrests that have led to 36 indictments, seized 10 emissions analyzers, 1,1439 certificates and issued 164 citations.
"A lot of people instead of wanting to pay to get their vehicles fixed, they go out and buy a fake certificate. There's a big market for that," said Travis County Pct. 3 Deputy Constable John Sisson.
The goal of the taskforce is to enforce laws related to emissions violations. They also target those selling, making and distributing fraudulent State Motor Vehicle Inspections Certificates.
Joe Reyna, Jr. and Alonzo Tillery used to run an auto shop. They were arrested and accused of hooking up cars to an emissions machine, then switching the information in the computer to make dirty cars pass that would otherwise not meet emissions standards.
"It puts all of us at risk for safety and emissions and air quality," said Pct. 3 Constable Richard McCain.
Precinct 3 constables were contacted by the Travis County Tax Assessor's Office. An employee discovered fraudulent emissions documents connected to several cars for which sales tax had not been paid.
Constables arrested 49-year-old Theresa Gonzales. They say she's the ring leader, accused of using false documents to get taxes, titles and registrations for dozens of vehicles. David Rodriguez was arrested for bringing documents to the courthouse and forging them for Gonzales.
"What they're doing is obtaining state certificates and titles under false pretenses. Number one, it's stealing money from the state, stealing money from the county," said Deputy Constable Sisson.
Constable McCain says funding for the grant has run out. He says his deputies uncovered a huge problem in Travis County that needs to continue to be investigated.
"His term ends in five weeks. We're hoping the new constable and someone with the county state will pick us up and fund us," said Deputy Constable Sisson.
Constables have cleared about 120 cases. They expect to make more arrests and file more charges. Sisson says we cannot improve air quality in Travis County if we continue to allow high-polluting vehicles to ride on our roads.
Annual Inspection Report for 2008 in Travis County:
586,204 vehicles inspected
4,967 failed and never passed
6.8% fail for safety reasons
10.5% fail for emissions problems
4,967 doesn't sound like a lot, but EPA estimates that 90% of vehicle pollution comes from 10% vehicles
Contact for DPS Motor Vehicle Inspections: (512) 424-7459 (9 a.m. - 5 p.m.)