Car Test Firm Chief Guilty in Fraud Case

Times Staff Writers

The president of an auto emissions test laboratory in Huntington Beach was convicted in federal court Wednesday of falsifying test results for luxury imported “gray market” cars so they would meet U. S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Vernon Robert Lindholm Jr., 38, of Rancho Palos Verdes, faces up to 25 years in prison and a $1.25-million fine after being convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the EPA and four counts of making false statements within the jurisdiction of the EPA.

Lindholm had been on trial for two days before Judge Robert J. Kelleher. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 1.

Lindholm was president and major stockholder in Emission Engineering Inc. of Huntington Beach. Between 1984 and 1986, Lindholm and other EEI employees falsified test results for more than 1,000 cars submitted by the lab to the EPA, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Ralph F. Hirschmann, who prosecuted the case.


Charged $1,000 for Tests

EEI was supposed to be performing sophisticated 18-hour emission tests, for which it charged customers about $1,000, Hirschmann said.

The cars that EEI tested included Porsches and Mercedes-Benzes brought into the United States on the so-called gray market, which is outside normal import channels. Gray market vehicles can be purchased by American citizens abroad and then brought home for modification to U.S. environmental standards. Normal import rules stipulate that the vehicles be modified before they enter the country.

The Lindholm case is the fifth successful federal prosecution of an emission testing laboratory in Southern California. In the past three years, convictions for fraudulent testing have been obtained against executives at AME Trend in Costa Mesa, ICL in Orange, Customs Engineering in Garden Grove and Fairway Environmental Engineering in Torrance.