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9.5.23 – NBC-DFW – Five people have now been arrested in connection with an investigation into falsified emissions tests

The fake inspection scandal inside the Texas Department of Public Safety appears to be widening, as the DPS revealed Tuesday that they suspended a third employee in an ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, NBC 5 Investigates has obtained arrest warrant affidavits detailing criminal charges against two DPS staffers accused of taking money in exchange for allowing inspection stations to falsify emissions tests, falsely passing vehicles.

William Shepherd and Destini Spencer, both DPS program inspectors, were arrested by the Texas Rangers on Aug. 18 on charges of organized criminal activity.

A warrant affidavit said that for years William Shepherd received “…periodic payments…” totaling more than $50,000 from one inspection shop in Dallas along with more than $59,000 in cash app transactions from a second shop in Carrollton and more than $1,100 in Zelle payments from a third inspection station. A total of more than $110,000.

Investigators said Shepherd changed state records for one station to indicate it was closed but failed to deactivate the station’s emissions analyzer for months which, “…resulted in additional clean scans (fake inspections) being conducted,” according to the affidavit.

The allegations against Destini Spencer were traced to another inspection station NBC 5 Investigates has reported on extensively, called South Side Inspections.   

According to DPS records, South Side was supposed to be at 2719 Romine Avenue but our investigation found that address doesn’t exist and is a parking lot.

A warrant affidavit said the Texas Rangers discovered South Side’s emissions analyzers were connecting to the internet from another building across the street on Romine Avenue.

The Rangers raided the building last month, making four arrests and locating the analyzers along with a surrogate car they suspect was used to fake the emissions tests.

Investigators said Spencer was the DPS program inspector responsible for verifying South Side’s location when it opened but did not follow proper procedures, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit said the Rangers obtained financial records showing a man connected to South Side, “…made periodic payments to Spencer totaling $525.”

Investigators said Spencer’s state credentials were used to “unlock” two of South Side’s emissions analyzers when the station was locked out for conducting potentially suspicious inspections.

The court documents also reveal how investigators first zeroed in on the two DPS inspectors on April 26.

On that same day, NBC 5 Investigates rode with state troopers conducting an enforcement sweep, attempting to bust shops suspected of running fake inspections.

According to the affidavits, investigators found some of those shops “..ceased clean scanning vehicles during the hours of the covert operation.”

The shops then, “…began clean scanning in mass quantities almost immediately after the covert operation had concluded,” suggesting someone inside DPS had tipped the stations.

Investigators said Shepherd and Spencer were the inspectors responsible for overseeing some of those locations, prompting the Rangers to take a closer look at whether someone helped from the inside.

Messages NBC 5 left for Destini Spencer were not immediately returned and William Shepherd referred a reporter’s call to an attorney who declined to comment.

A DPS spokesperson told NBC 5 Investigates a third DPS employee has been suspended in the investigation, but the spokesperson would not say if that employee is facing any potential criminal charges.

On Friday, the DPS arrested a fifth person connected to the alleged scheme at South Side Inspections.

Updated state records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show South Side recorded more than 70,000 inspections in a little more than five months and often more than 500, or even 700, in a single day.

Law enforcement experts said it is impossible for a small station to run that many legitimate inspections.

The man listed as South Side’s owner has not responded to messages left in an attempt to reach him.