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News / Business / Clark County Business

Ridgefield, Woodland business co-owner pleads guilty to tampering with federally regulated pollution devices

He admitted to violating Clean Air Act

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 19, 2024, 5:26pm

The co-owner of two local diesel truck service and sales businesses pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to violating the Clean Air Act, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sean Coiteux, 50, and his wife Tracy Coiteux, 46, own Racing Performance Maintenance Northwest of Ridgefield and RPM Motors and Sales NW of Woodland.

In his plea agreement, Sean Coiteux admitted that between January 2018 and January 2021, he directed employees to tamper with federally-regulated pollution control devices on hundreds of diesel trucks the company sold or serviced.

Both businesses entered corporate guilty pleas, according to plea agreements shared by the Department of Justice. Racing Performance Maintenance Northwest pleaded guilty to a charge of tampering with a monitoring device or method in violation of the Clean Air Act. RPM Motor and Sales NW pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act.

The Columbian did not receive responses to requests for comment from either business Tuesday.

Sean Coiteux and both companies are scheduled for sentencing June 24. Tracy Coiteux remains charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and violating the Clean Air Act, and her trial is scheduled for May 20, the news release states.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose criminal division is investigating the case, regulates the amount of pollution vehicles can emit under the Clean Air Act. Each violation of the federal Clean Air Act is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the news release.

Over three years, the two businesses tampered with approximately 375 diesel trucks and earned $538,477 for these modifications, according to the Department of Justice.

To conceal the removal of the emissions monitoring systems, employees at RPM Motors and Sales sometimes offered, as part of the sale of a truck, to remove the emissions control system after the purchase and referred to the work on invoices as an upgrade. Service manager Nicholas L. Akerill used tuning software on his cellphone and reprogrammed the trucks’ on-board diagnostics, court records state.

“By removing required pollution control devices, the defendants caused their customers’ diesel trucks to spew pollutants into the air at a rate of up to 1,200 times the pollution caused by compliant trucks,” U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said in the news release. “This conduct increased toxins in our environment that are linked to cancer, as well as pulmonary, neurological, cardiovascular, and immune system damage. The pollution causes particular harm to disadvantaged communities who live near freeways and other high traffic areas.”

Sean and Tracy Coiteux, along with Akerill, were first indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2021.

Akerill pleaded guilty in September 2022 in Clark County District Court to a motor vehicle emission control systems violation, according to court records. He was fined $10,000 and sentenced to 30 days of community service.