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Psychedelic drugs, AR-15 seized in Dallas fake inspections raid according to DPS warrants

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NBC 5 Investigates has learned new details about the investigation leading to the stunning arrest of two DPS employees accused of taking bribes in exchange for helping vehicle inspection stations suspected of faking emissions tests.

Copies of search warrants obtained by NBC 5 Investigates reveal the DPS's Texas Rangers used bank records to uncover the alleged bribes paid to one of the two DPS employees. The warrants also describe how a Texas DPS tactical unit raided South Side Inspections, a business on Romine Avenue that was at the center of their investigation.

During the raid, the DPS agents arrested four men, identified as Amari Rashan Lewis, Francisco Alarcon Ramirez, Jose Hernandez and Victor Hernandez, and seized two emissions analyzers, vehicle inspection records, a loaded AR-15 pistol and 6,000 grams of psychedelic mushrooms, according to the warrants.

An arrest warrant affidavit said Lewis, "Admitted (to the Texas Rangers) that he would give the information of the vehicles he needed to clean scan and one of the three others named in the affidavit would do the clean scanning."

Clean scanning is a practice where during a vehicle emissions test a VIN from one vehicle is entered into computer records while the actual emissions test is performed on a surrogate vehicle or a simulator device resulting in a fraudulent "passing" score.

According to the warrants, the men would plug the emissions analyzer into a surrogate car, in this case, a Honda Civic that the Texas Rangers found on the property where they conducted the raid.

One of the men arrested, Ramirez, was still being held in the Dallas County Jail on Wednesday and declined NBC 5 Investigates' request for an interview. We have not been able to reach the other three men for comment. Each of the four men is now facing charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and it's not clear if they've obtained an attorney to speak on their behalf.

NBC 5 Investigates began asking questions about South Side Inspections earlier this year because Texas DPS records showed they reported inspecting more than 56,000 cars in five months and often more than 500 cars in a single day. That volume of inspections represents a number law enforcement told us is impossible for a small inspection shop to achieve.

South Side Inspections was supposed to be located at 2719 Romine Avenue, according to the DPS's inspection website and a license application the company filed with the state. But, as we have reported, that street address doesn't exist. That address is a parking lot next to a snow cone stand where the operators knew nothing about state emissions inspections happening there when we visited earlier in the summer.

It turns out the Texas Rangers were asking questions about South Side Inspections too, and tracked the operation to a different building on Romine across the street from the snow cone stand. That's where they arrested the four men and seized items in the investigation.

The affidavits also said the Texas Rangers also obtained bank records that identified a fifth person who paid South Side Inspections' initial state registration fee and, "...bribed a member of the Texas Department of Public Safety to allow the shop to stay in business and not take administrative or criminal action against them."

The warrant said the DPS employee was arrested, "and then confessed to this action as well."

The DPS has not released the names of the two department employees arrested for allegedly taking bribes. Late Wednesday, a DPS spokesperson said the man accused in the warrants of paying bribes to one of the DPS employees had not yet been arrested.

DPS stepped up its crackdown on stations suspected of fake inspections earlier this year, after NBC5 Investigates questioned the department about the amount of fraud happening in the vehicle inspection program. In March, we reported a group of Travis County investigators believes as many as five million Texas cars falsely pass emissions tests every year.

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