A man is in custody, accused of selling counterfeit temporary paper license tags in Dallas.
According to Dallas police, the department's Auto Theft Task Force arrested 43-year-old Wayland Wayne Wright and shut down what they described as a "paper tag mill" during an undercover operation after receiving a tip from a citizen.
Wright was booked into the Dallas County Jail Tuesday afternoon on a charge of tampering with a governmental record with the intent to defraud. The charge is a state jail felony.
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Dallas police said they executed a search warrant at a location on the 3600 block of Sunnyvale Street on April 20 where they found additional fake paper tags along with $3,000 in cash.
Wright, according to a police statement, "admitted to printing multiple fake and fraudulent paper tags."
In an interview Tuesday, Dallas Police Lt. Julio Gonzalez told NBC 5 Investigates the department believes the suspected tag operation sold about 200 fraudulent tags, Gonzalez said the tag that an undercover detective purchased was a counterfeit tag and was not issued out of the Texas DMV's temporary tag system.
According to investigators, counterfeit tags are a growing trend.
Following nearly six months of reports by NBC 5 Investigates, which exposed how crooks were able to get Texas car dealer licenses and sell hundreds of thousands of real tags, the Texas DMV has cracked down on those so-called "dealers" in recent months, suspending their access to the DMV's tag system. Police said crooks selling tags have now turned to tags that are entirely fake.
"What we still are seeing are the completely fictitious and created paper tags", Gonzalez told NBC 5 Investigates.
The 200 suspected fraudulent tags involved in Tuesday's bust is a relatively small number compared to the amount that may have been sold by some of the small licensed dealers NBC 5 Investigates exposed in a series of reports that began in November. Investigators believe one of those dealers sold 27,000 tags in a single week, bringing in an estimated $2 million in profits.
But criminals who use fraudulent tags to create so-called "ghost cars" to evade police and commit other crimes only need to obtain one fraudulent tag. So, Dallas police investigators say they are committed to working with the DMV to take all of those tags off the streets.
"We have seen these fake and fraudulent paper tags that are used in street racing robberies, burglaries, stolen vehicles, and so it's very important that we go after those individuals that are defrauding the state of Texas," Gonzalez said.
Dallas Chief of Police Eddie Garcia said last month that his officers had begun working undercover to stop the illegal sale of Texas paper tags in the city. Fort Worth announced a similar operation in February.
Tuesday, police told NBC 5 Investigates that Tuesday's arrest was the first announcement in what they describe as an ongoing series of investigations.
Wednesday morning, jail records showed Wright remained at the Dallas County Jail on a bond of $15,000. It is not clear if he has an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Paper Tag Nation
NBC 5 Investigates aired our first report in early November 2021 exposing how crooked car dealers were able to obtain dealer licenses by registering with the state and paying a fee and then using those licenses to print hundreds of thousands of tags, which law enforcement officials suspected were being sold for millions in illicit profits.
Last week, state lawmakers in Austin, including Texas House Committee Chairman Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) pressed the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles for answers about how the agency allowed the illegal sale of temporary license plates to spiral out of control and demanded that somebody had to answer for the debacle.
In February, the agency said it could not move faster to revoke dealer licenses until the legislature gave them that authority and the board implemented new administrative rules. Those changes went into effect earlier this year and the agency has been able to shut down some dealers suspected of paper tag fraud.
Dallas police continue to investigate reports of paper tag fraud and asks the public to report those selling fake or fraudulent paper tags to their Auto Theft Unit at 214-671-3535 or by calling the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Enforcement Division at 888-368-4689.
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- 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
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- Nov. 8, 2021 - How Texas Paper Tags Became a $200M Criminal Enterprise: NBC 5 Investigates