Newport Beach : Car Dealer Sentenced for Smog Test Fakery

A Corona del Mar man once considered the nation's largest importer of so-called "gray market" luxury cars was sentenced Monday to six months in prison for submitting phony smog test results.

Albert Mardikian, 39, pleaded guilty last August in the middle of his trial to charges of mail fraud and making false statements to the government. His nephew, Garo Mardikian, 28, of Torrance, was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail on consecutive weekends.

Chief U.S. District Judge Manuel Real in Los Angeles also ordered both men to participate in community-service work sponsored by the Los Angeles based-Foundation for People. Their attorneys said the Mardikians plan to teach convicted felons automotive repair skills. Albert Mardikian has also paid about $15,000 to customers who were forced to have their vehicles modified to meet smog standards, according to his attorney, Howard Weitzman.

The elder Mardikian owned the now-defunct Trend Import Sales in Newport Beach. In the early 1980s, prosecutors said, Mardikian imported and sold Mercedes Benzes, Ferraris, BMWs and other luxury models. The cars were considered "gray market" because they were built for use outside the United States and did not meet U.S. and state smog standards. The law requires importers to alter the cars to meet smog standards before they are sold.

In May, the Mardikians were indicted on 35 counts of submitting false test results to the Environmental Protection Agency. The results showed that the cars met pollution standards, when in fact they were never tested, according to William Sellars, a Justice Department attorney who prosecuted the case.

Sellars said this was the first such case prosecuted by the EPA.

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