Garden Grove : 3 Indicted on Charges of Falsifying EPA Car Tests

The operators of a defunct Garden Grove automobile-testing laboratory have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles for allegedly falsifying test results required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for imported cars.

The 36-count indictment, returned late Tuesday, resulted from a joint investigation by the EPA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Custom Engineering Inc.; its president, Billy Closson, 54, of Highland; manager Roger Scoggins, 45, of Canoga Park, and technical director John Sidwell, 24, of Palmdale are charged with mail fraud and making false statements to the EPA.

Sidwell was also charged with three counts of perjury for allegedly making false statements to a grand jury on May 6.

Before any imported car can be driven in the United States, the EPA requires that it meet U.S. emissions standards, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Janet L. Goldstein.

Custom Engineering primarily serviced Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and BMW cars. The company charged customers $750 to perform the emission tests required by the EPA. However, the indictment alleges that company employees falsified and fabricated test results and forwarded the results to the government agency by mail.

Goldstein said the EPA's Office of Mobile Sources removed Custom Engineering from its list of approved testing laboratories in December, 1985. The company closed shortly after that, according to a Sidwell family member.

Government investigators found test records dating back to 1982 when they obtained a search warrant on May 15, 1985, according to Goldstein.

She said the newly formed environmental unit at the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles also participated in the case.

None of the defendants could be reached for comment. They are scheduled to appear for a post-indictment arraignment on July 7.

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