The Texas DMV Board adopted a plan for stiffer background checks on people applying for Texas car dealer licenses Thursday, including fingerprinting applicants.
This major change stems from a seven-month-long NBC 5 investigation which revealed how a lack of thorough vetting by the Texas DMV allowed criminals to become licensed car dealers and then sell temporary license plates for millions in black market profits.
NBC 5 Investigates’ reporting revealed the DMV did not fingerprint people applying for car dealer licenses – or meet with them in person before giving them a license.
This allowed crooks, some using stolen identities, to obtain dealer’s licenses and gain access to the DMV’s temporary tag system. Once inside they could print temporary tags and sell them illegally.
Our investigation showed show some dealers that sold illicit tags were willing to enter fake names and addresses into the state’s registration system, creating tags for what police call “ghost cars” that are harder to track.
"Fraudsters are going to do fraud no matter what," said Sgt. Joe Escribano, who pushed for years for DMV to crack down. "But at least you (now) have some measures in place."
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The change requires owners who apply for car dealer licenses to submit fingerprints and existing owners when they renew their licenses.
By one law enforcement estimate, more than 1.2 million illicit tags were sold in 2021 alone.
The DMV is working on other changes as well, including allowing police to access their dealer database to conduct fraud investigations.
NBC 5's Scott Gordon contributed to this report.
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