There’s new evidence of how bogus Texas temporary license plates are putting people in danger not only in Texas, but across the country.
NBC 5 Investigates has learned of more reports of crimes involving fraudulent Texas tags as far away as New York and Nevada where police say they are struggling to keep up with the problem.
“We could spend every day looking for Texas buyer tags, and we still wouldn't find them all. It's just, they're everywhere here”, said Chief JD Decker with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles Compliance Enforcement Division.
Decker reports many of those Texas tags are now being used by fraudsters trying to disguise stolen cars and unsafe salvage vehicles that are sold to unsuspecting buyers.
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In New York City, the NYPD recently released surveillance video of a man impersonating a police officer, stealing gas from a gas station. The suspect drove off in a car with a fraudulent Texas paper tag, according to authorities, and he is still on the run.
Our New York NBC station, WNBC, reports Texas temporary tags can be found across the city. And, just yesterday, police announced 22 cars were seized with illegal paper plates in Brooklyn.
“Why is someone with a Texas dealership temporary plate here in New York? You have to buy that vehicle in Texas”, said Terry Monahan and NBC New York law enforcement consultant and former Chief of Department at the NYPD.
As NBC 5 Investigates has reported, crooks have been able to get Texas car dealer licenses, allowing them to access the state’s system and create tags, which they can then sell illegally for huge profits.
The tags are often sold to people hoping to avoid paying for insurance and car registration. But they are also turning up on cars involved in crimes in Texas, New York and beyond, because bad guys have figured out those bogus tags can be registered to false names and addresses, making them hard for police to trace.
In one county just outside New York City police have found Texas tags connected to a series of other crimes.
“30% of all vehicles stopped in Nassau County with these plates had weapons and or drugs”, Monahan told WNBC.
In Nevada, where police say they see Texas temporary tags all over Las Vegas, they said they are not seeing fraudulent Nevada tags. DMV officials in Nevada say that’s because their inspectors visit dealers in person to verify their identities prior to issuing them a dealer license.
“We have a very robust licensing program in which the applicant is screened, the location is screened, the signage is screened, and so it would be very hard to register as a Nevada auto dealer and have access to that system if you weren't actually a Nevada dealer”, Decker said.
In Texas, the DMV does not meet with people applying for dealer licenses, or fingerprint them, allowing people posing as car dealers to cheat the system.
Police report they have seen businesses that submitted dealer license applications using stolen identities and pictures of photoshopped offices that do not exist.
At a Texas DMV advisory committee meeting Wednesday, members talked about plans to change that.
The committee asked staff to begin exploring the cost of hiring more inspectors or private contractors to conduct on-site visits of all applicants. The group also discussed the possibility of charging applicants a fee to cover the costs of those inspections.
Last year alone, more than 4,000 people applied for Texas dealer licenses, making inspections a massive task.
“They are going to need money for computer systems, VIN verification, the fingerprinting - site inspections, whatever else they may need”, said advisory committee member Mike Bradburn, a law enforcement detective who investigates tag fraud cases.
But tackling the problem on the front end might save time and money for cities, Bradburn said, where police are now forced to clean up the mess.
In Dallas Wednesday, Mayor Eric Johnson fielded questions at a city council meeting from a citizen complaining of cars with new paper tags being switched out constantly in one neighborhood. Those tags are supposed to be issued only when a dealer actually sells a car.
Johnson pledged to address the issue with police.
“So, let’s reach out to Chief Garcia and to DPS Colonel McCraw and see what we need to do to look into this. Sounds like maybe a paper tag mill going on”, Johnson said.
Dallas police have already conducted several special operations in the city, seizing dozens of tags, impounding cars and arresting people suspected of using those tag to conceal other crimes.
- June 12, 2023 - Gov. Abbott signs law eliminating paper license plates in Texas
- May 24, 2023 - Bill to Eliminate Paper License Plates in Texas Passes Texas Senate
- March 27, 2023 - Texas DMV's New Paper Tag Design Easily Counterfeited, Police Say
- Nov. 17, 2022 - Texas DMV Redesigns Paper License Tags to Include New Security Features
- Nov. 15, 2022 - Police Searching for Paper Tagged 'Ghost Car' in Deadly Grand Prairie Chase
- June 1, 2022 - Police Make Bogus Tag Bust Tied to Social Media Ads
- May 18, 2022 - TxDMV Names New Executive Director Amid Paper Tag Crisis
- May 17, 2022 - Vehicle Used in Dallas Salon Shooting Had Paper Tag
- May 12, 2022 - Ads for Fake Tags Persist, Despite Facebook, TxDMV Efforts
- May 4, 2022 - Texas' Paper Tag Problem Compounded by Small Dealers Misusing Them
- May 3, 2022 - Dallas Police Shut Down Accused Fake Paper Tag Dealer
- April 26, 2022 - Texas House Set to Hold Paper Tag Hearings
- April 14, 2022 - Texas DMV Cracks Down on Dealers Selling Temporary Paper Tags
- April 13, 2022 - TxDMV Closes Inspection Loophole That Put Unsafe Cars on Roads
- April 12, 2022 - Dallas Police Go Undercover to Fight Illegal Paper Tags
- April 7, 2022 - Police Warn of Fake Paper Tags Used to Cheat Car Buyers
- April 5, 2022 - Texas Senate Will Investigate Illegal Paper Tag Crimes, Smuggling
- March 9, 2022 - Texas Paper Tag Crime Danger Extends Nationwide
- March 5, 2022 - Texas House Will Hold Hearings on Paper Tag Mess
- Feb. 28, 2022 - License to Smuggle: Drug Cartels and Human Smugglers Use Paper Texas Tags to Evade
- Feb. 15, 2022 - Fort Worth Police Announce Special Operation Targeting Paper Tags
- Feb. 14, 2022 -- Crash Victim's Parents Want More Cops to Police Paper Tag Fraud
- Feb. 13, 2022 - More Funding Need to Fight Criminals Using Bogus Paper Tags: Police
- Feb. 10, 2022 - Police Report Drop in Fraudulent Tags But Warn Crooks Are Adapting
- Feb. 9, 2022 - Texas DMV Shuts Down Six More Dealers Suspected of Selling Paper License Tags
- Feb. 7, 2022 - TxDMV Director Resigns Amidst Paper Tag Mess
- Jan. 27, 2022 - TxDMV Takes Emergency Action to Keep Crooks From Selling Paper Tags
- Jan. 21, 2022 - Dallas Police Operation Targets Fraudulent Paper Tags
- Jan. 17, 2022 - Recording Shows Police Warned TxDMV of Paper Tag Security Flaw Years Ago
- Dec. 16, 2021 - DMV Committee Recommends Fingerprinting Some Dealers to Slow Paper Tag Fraud
- Dec. 14, 2021 - Texas House Transportation Chair Vows to Stop Paper Tag Fraud
- Dec. 6, 2021 - Texas DMV Boss Deflects Blame for Paper Tag Debacle
- Nov. 23, 2021 - Illegal Paper Tags Costing Texas Taxpayers and Toll Roads Millions
- Nov. 10, 2021 - Suspected Paper Tag Peddler Shut Down Tuesday, Reopens Wednesday: Investigators
- Nov. 8, 2021 - How Texas Paper Tags Became a $200M Criminal Enterprise: NBC 5 Investigates