Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said his office has filed criminal charges against 19 individuals and 13 separate businesses for alleged motor vehicle “title washing.”
Prosecutors allege the businesses and individuals coordinated to purchase totaled vehicles, falsify inspection information, and submit fraudulent title applications to the state’s transportation agency, PennDOT.
AG Shapiro contends the fraud was designed to bypass rigid requirements for reconstructed titles in states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, or to make stolen vehicles look legitimate for resale or export.
“These defendants used their positions and knowledge of PennDOT requirements to defraud state and federal authorities, hide stolen vehicles, and put unsuspecting drivers at risk,” said Shapiro. “Vehicles that have been totaled must not only be repaired but also undergo an enhanced safety inspection to make sure they are safe. These defendants instead allowed hundreds of heavily-damaged vehicles onto roadways in Pennsylvania, and around the country without even looking at them.”
The defendants include car dealers, a towing firm and a title agency.
As part of this criminal scheme, prosecutors say the defendants did not complete the vehicle safety inspections that are necessary in order to make a totaled vehicle road worthy again and instead only completed the paperwork required. Many vehicles that were claimed to have been inspected at their shops never actually entered Pennsylvania.
When a stolen vehicle goes through this title washing process, the original Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is often replaced and this, along with the new title, allows for the vehicle to appear legitimate in the eyes of law enforcement and prevents the original owner from reclaiming their vehicle, according to prosecutors.
As part of its investigation, AG’s Office said it found that one individual claimed to have completed over 240 “inspections” costing $60 each during a 10-day period in December 2020. During this time, however, investigators had conducted surveillance outside and saw that that his own vehicle was the only one to enter the shop.
The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
According to the AG, the 13 businesses that have been charged include George’s Garage in Scranton; PA Tag & Title in Scranton; Luci’s Auto Sales in Old Forge; Newroad Motors in Lebanon; Best Value Auto Outlet/Oli’s Auto Sales in Scranton; PBJ Motors in Taylor; ALZ Auto Sales in Mount Pocono; Aquino Auto Mall in Lehighton; EOS Auto Sales in Taylor; Alliance Auto/Alliance Auto Sport, Inc. in Exeter; Salazar Auto Sales in York; N & G Towing, Body Shop and Sales in Dover,and Beltin Auto Sales in York.
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