paper tag nation

Texas Paper Tag Crime Danger Extends Nationwide

NBC 5 Investigates has learned of more reports of crimes involving fraudulent Texas tags as far away as New York and Nevada

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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.

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.


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