The extent of fraud among used car dealers in Pennsylvania came into full view last month when Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that 13 businesses and 19 individuals were being charged with title washing and other types of fraud. The arrests were carried out by the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Task Force and other agencies.
Those charged are accused of purchasing vehicles that had been damaged or stolen and then creating false inspection documentation in order to get clean titles from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Some of the vehicles that were given fraudulent inspection reports were never even in the state.
The dangers of “washed” titles
Attorney General (and now Governor-elect) Shapiro explained how dangerous this kind of fraud is for everyone. He said, “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.”
One repair shop owner claimed to have inspected more than 240 vehicles during a 10-day period. However, law enforcement surveillance found that no vehicle besides his own ever went into the shop throughout that time.
Numerous different charges have been filed
Among the numerous charges the businesses and individuals are facing are:
- Washing vehicle titles
- False application for a certificate of title
- Tampering with public records
- Deceptive business practices
- Commercial bribery
Title washing is done to hide any number of problems that can make a vehicle unsellable or much less valuable. Some of these vehicles are dangerous to drive because they have been flooded, salvaged or rebuilt. As noted, some have been stolen. Others have liens on them.
If you’ve been harmed by title washing or another type of auto fraud, it’s crucial to learn more about your rights and your options for seeking justice and compensation. Having experienced legal guidance can help.