Three of the four Berlin City Auto Group employees, including a Bethel man, charged with improperly conducting New Hampshire safety inspections reached negotiated agreements with New Hampshire State Police at their arraignment hearings in Berlin District Court on Tuesday.

The charges resulted from an investigation that found employees who were not authorized by the Division of Motor Vehicles as certified mechanics to conduct safety inspections had allegedly conducted numerous improper state inspections using the log-in information of their supervisors.

The investigation began when State Trooper Brandon Girardi and automotive equipment inspector Logan Ramsay went to Berlin City Ford on May 20 with the intention of conducting a routine audit of the dealership’s safety inspection records.

According to the affidavit for the arrests, Girardi and Ramsay requested to speak with the service manager whom they were told was Allen Demers. They were told Demers was not working this particular day.

Girardi and Ramsay talked with a technician and began their review by looking at the dealer’s sticker books. They ran the sticker books through the New Hampshire on-board Diagnostics and Safety Testing system to verify that everything was correct.

That’s when the red flag went up. Two stickers had been issued for the same 2016 Ford Explorer. One of them was issued the day before when it had arrived on the lot, and the second about 30 minutes prior to the arrival of Girardi and Ramsay at the dealership. The second sticker indicated the inspection had been conducted by Demers, but Demers was not at work that day.

The investigation that followed took about six months and included a cross-check of the Berlin City Auto Group’s time card records and the inspection list maintained by the Diagnostics and Safety Testing system.

The inspection list includes detailed information such as the date, time, vehicle identification number, sticker number, and who issued the sticker.

The result of the investigation revealed nearly 1,000 offenses where the licensed inspector was not on site at the time of the inspection. In other words, according to the supporting affidavit for the arrests of the four employees, licensed inspectors were sharing their Diagnostics and Safety Testing pass codes with unlicensed mechanics, which allowed them to conduct inspections and issue unauthorized stickers to vehicles.

Girardi said the company was fully cooperative with the investigation and acted very professionally throughout the process. The company had a lot to lose. Girardi said that under a franchise agreement with the auto manufacturers, Berlin City must maintain an on-site inspection station. He said that if they had brought their evidence to Concord, with the magnitude of the offense, the dealership could have lost its inspection privileges, causing the company to close. Girardi said they understood that could cost the region about 250 jobs.

“I asked myself, what am I trying to accomplish?” Girardi said. He said he took into consideration that none of the men had a criminal record, that no one was hurt by the offenses, and that the stickers were mostly for new cars.

“They weren’t putting junk out on the road,” he said. This was not about “mass punishment,” he concluded, but about “teaching them a lesson.”

“This investigation was about safety in general,” Girardi said. “The state sets standards and we have to hold them accountable.”

Alan Moody of Whitefield, night crew supervisor at Berlin City Ford, represented by attorney Leonard Harden, pleaded guilty to computer crimes in exchange for having numerous other charges dropped. They included criminal solicitation to commit tampering with public records, criminal solicitation to commit unsworn falsification, and criminal solicitation to commit counterfeit, unauthorized or forged stickers. Moody was ordered to pay a fine and penalty assessment of $310.

Randall Grondin of Bethel, Maine, service manager for Berlin City Chevrolet, pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation to commit tampering with public records in exchange for having numerous other charges of computer crimes and criminal solicitation to commit counterfeit, unauthorized or forged stickers dropped.

Grondin was ordered to pay a fine and penalty assessment of $310 and must maintain good behavior for 18 months. If he does, he may petition the court to have his record annulled.

Luke McGillicuddy of Gorham, a mechanic at Berlin City Auto Group, pleaded guilty to counterfeit, unauthorized or forged stickers in exchange for having numerous other charges of computer crimes and tampering with public records placed on file without a finding. He was ordered to pay a fine and penalty assessment of $310 and must maintain good behavior for one year.

McGillicuddy came to Berlin City as a licensed inspector of passenger and heavy vehicles from Tri-County Community Action Program where he previously worked. Berlin City had simply failed to complete the necessary paperwork that would have added his name to the station’s N.H. Diagnostics and Safety Testing system.

Allen Demers of Gorham, service manager for Berlin City Ford, pleaded not guilty to the charges and awaits his trial scheduled for March 22.

This story was reprinted with permission of the Berlin Daily Sun.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: