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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

Auto Shop Owner Guilty of Improper Certifications

August 31, 2000

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The owner of a car repair shop was found guilty Wednesday of issuing certificates for salvaged vehicles without performing inspections.

Joo Ro Hwang, 38, will choose between sentences of 120 days in jail or 75 days on a work crew. He was caught in a state Bureau of Automotive Repair undercover operation last year, authorities said. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino also sentenced him to three years' probation and $1,450 in fines and court costs.

Hwang, of Koreatown, pleaded no contest to charges that he issued brake and lamp certificates so that junk cars being salvaged could be returned to the road. The auto shop owner issued the certificates without inspecting the brakes or lights on three occasions.

Efforts to reach Hwang through his shop, Arnold Auto Repair, were unsuccessful.

State investigators said they had noticed unusually high volumes of certificates being issued at Hwang's shop. They launched an extensive undercover operation, taking salvaged cars with brake and light problems to his shop on three occasions.

Two of those times, the shop did not bother to remove the wheel to check the brakes. On every occasion the certificates were issued, despite problems that should have prevented the cars from passing inspection.

Arnold's fee for the inspections was $50.

Mike Qualls, a spokesman for the city attorney's office, said the prosecution and possible jail sentence are not unusual. "The state is very active in policing this, and our office does a lot of cases with them."

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