Crime & Courts

Anchorage vehicle repair shop owners plead guilty to Clean Air Act violations

The owners of an Anchorage repair shop this week entered guilty pleas to federal charges they illegally tampered with federally mandated equipment and removed air pollution control equipment on dozens of vehicles in violation of the Clean Air Act.

Zachary John Czubak, Patrick Thomas Fleming and Michael Wayne Hanzuk, co-owners of Arm Rippin Toys on King Street, were each charged with one violation of the Clean Air Act.

The act directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to limit the amount of pollutants motor vehicles can emit. It’s illegal under the act to disable hardware emission control and monitoring devices on vehicles that ensure they are in compliance with federal emission standards.

The three men tampered with and removed emission control from at least 37 vehicles between July 2019 and September 2020, according to federal prosecutors.

The shop collected a total of approximately $100,000 from customers to modify those vehicles, according to an information document filed in the case.

The removal and tampering caused the modified vehicles to emit “thousands of times more pollution” than they would have otherwise, federal prosecutors said in a statement. The pollutants contribute to a variety of public health problems, such as premature death in people with heart or lung disease, heart attacks, asthma and other respiratory issues, they said.

A defense attorney involved in the case could not be reached for comment.

Czubak, Fleming and Hanzuk pleaded guilty this week to the federal charges and Czubak and Hanzuk were each sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason to spend five years on probation along with a $66,000 fine, according to the Alaska district of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Fleming is still awaiting sentencing.

Annie Berman

Annie Berman covers health care for the Anchorage Daily News. She's a fellow with Report for America, and is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A veteran of AmeriCorps and Vista volunteer programs, she's previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in the Bay Area.