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Community News: South

Pair Sentenced for Smog-Check Fraud

June 06, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

Two mechanics nabbed in a state sting of auto-repair shops that distributed fake smog-check certificates have been sentenced to jail, although one may serve no time behind bars.

Max Banuelos, 23, a mechanic at Mad's Auto Repair in the 800 block of West Florence Avenue, was sentenced to 30 days in jail after pleading no contest to one count of computer fraud in March. Kleber Caceres, a mechanic at Main Smog Auto Repair in the 3700 block of South Main Street, was sentenced to six months in County Jail and three years probation, but Superior Court Judge Florence Marie Cooper postponed his jail time pending completion of 300 hours of community service.

Both Banuelos and his boss, Miguel Angel Vaca, 23, were originally charged with 11 counts of perjury and computer fraud and would have faced up to six years in prison if convicted on all charges. Vaca pleaded no contest to a count of perjury and is expected to be sentenced to nine months in jail June 21.

During a Sept. 17 surveillance of Mad's Auto Repair, investigators said they watched Vaca and Banuelos hook up Vaca's Toyota truck, a low-emission vehicle, to an exhaust measuring device and enter identification data for at least 10 cars.

Prosecutors said that was standard procedure for more than 50 auto repair shop operators and mechanics in Los Angeles County who were arrested in December and January in the biggest crackdown on phony certificates since the state Smog Check program began in 1984.

Twenty-eight smog-check stations were targeted in the sweep by officials from the state Bureau of Automotive Repair and the Air Resources Board.

Caceres, 56, a Palmdale resident, was ordered to return to court Nov. 15, at which time Cooper will decide whether he should serve jail time. Deputy Dist. Atty. Craig Veals said he was disappointed with the sentence: "I made an impassioned argument for time in custody."

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