Breaking News
More () »

State charges 30 people, 21 businesses in automotive 'title washing' ring

The suspects allegedly purchased totaled vehicles that they then falsified inspection information for and submitted fraudulent title applications to PennDOT.
Credit: FOX43

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Attorney General and governor-elect Josh Shapiro on Friday announced his office has charged 30 people and 21 businesses for "title-washing" and re-titling stolen vehicles.

The alleged offenses occurred at businesses in Lebanon, Lehigh, and Philadelphia counties, Shapiro said in a press release.

"The title washing fraud was designed to bypass rigid requirements for reconstructed titles in states such as New Jersey and New York," Shapiro said. "The re-titling of these stolen vehicles was intended to make those vehicles look legitimate for resale or export."

The suspects are alleged to have purchased totaled vehicles that they then falsified inspection information for and submitted fraudulent title applications to PennDOT as well as removing and changing the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) attached to each vehicle to bypass police detection of stolen vehicles, Shapiro said.

These arrests are following sweeping arrests earlier this year as tied to related criminal rings in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“The defendants used their positions and knowledge of PennDOT requirements to defraud state and federal authorities and put unsuspecting drivers at risk,” said Shapiro. “Vehicles that have been totaled must not only be repaired but also undergo an enhanced safety inspection to ensure they are safe. 

"The defendants instead allowed hundreds of heavily-damaged vehicles onto the roadways in Pennsylvania, and around the country without even looking at them. They gamed the system and put consumers at risk to rack up millions of dollars in illegal profits. This was widespread criminal conduct and today we brought a halt to it.”

As part of this alleged scheme, the enhanced vehicle safety inspectors listed did not complete the necessary inspections that were required in order to make a totaled vehicle road worthy again and instead only completed the paperwork required, according to Shapiro.

Many vehicles that they claimed to have been inspected at their shops never actually entered Pennsylvania, Shapiro said. Under further investigation, it was found that several of the vehicles had been stolen from other states.

“I congratulate Attorney General Shapiro and his staff on this investigation and the resulting arrests,” said Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin. “I commend and thank Chief Deputy District Attorney David Mussel, and all of the Lehigh County Auto Theft Task Force, for the roles that they played in this successful investigation in Lehigh County.”

The 30 individual defendants were charged, in varying degrees, with: Corrupt Organizations, Forgery, Washing Vehicle Titles, Deceptive Business Practices, Tampering with Public Records, False Application for Certificate of Title, Altered, Forged, or Counterfeit Documents, and Insurance Fraud, among other charges. Charges against the 21 businesses include, in varying degrees, Washing Vehicle Titles, Deceptive Business Practices, Tampering with Public Records, Altered, Forged, or Counterfeit Documents, and False Application for Certificate of Title.

The defendants are as follows:

  • Roberto Gomez-Gomez
  • Nora D. Rodriguez
  • Jimmy Rodriguez-Cosme
  • Jessica L. Engelke
  • Ahmed Lopez-Roman
  • Aristeds Aquino
  • Jean C. Aquino-Belen
  • Rafael Santiago-Pacheco
  • Juana Belen-Valdez
  • Juana Belen-De Evangelista
  • Osiris M. Fernandez-Gonzalez
  • Edgar Collado
  • Mohammad Alkurdi
  • Mohamed Kerdi
  • Albert Luciano-Rodriguez
  • Edward Saldivar
  • Adelaida Mirelis Mendoza
  • Eulid Urena-Recio
  • Linda M. Sandoval Martinez-Herrera
  • Margarete Rose Almashaqbeh
  • Charlie Jiminan
  • Beaki Antonia Perez
  • Somary Ibeth Otanez-DeLoor
  • Indalecia Vazquez
  • Maria Pineda
  • Jefferson Loor-Valet
  • Angel Mendez
  • David Morrison
  • Oleg Zelenko
  • Igor A. Dratch

The 21 businesses charged are as follows:

  • Mendoza Auto Sale, Inc.
  • G & G Auto Body and Auto Salvage
  • Carla Matia, LLC
  • Abby Auto
  • Saldivar Group, Inc.
  • JM Auto Sales, Inc.
  • Jessica Auto and Multiservices
  • Wilfredo Auto Repair
  • Emma Auto Tags and Multiservices, Inc.
  • Docuservices
  • A2Z Auto Sales
  • Charo Auto Sales
  • AMCO Motor Sales
  • MP Notary and Tags, Inc.
  • J & J Car and Truck Sales, LLC
  • PA Tag and Title
  • Perfect Touch Auto Repair & Sales
  • Santos Auto Gallery
  • Grig LLC
  • Newroad Motors LLC
  • Amatti Auto Sales LLC

“The arrests effectuated today emphasize our commitment to investigate any type of fraud associated with motor vehicles, titling, and affiliated records,” said Pennsylvania State Police Captain James Cuttitta, Special Investigations Division, Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “These crimes victimize unsuspecting, law-abiding citizens of Pennsylvania and beyond when they purchase these vehicles, only to learn later the vehicles have significant defects. 

"The Pennsylvania State Police will continue to work with all District Attorney’s Offices, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and other partners to conduct additional investigations and hold those responsible accountable.”

This case is being prosecuted by Chief Deputy Attorney General Robert LaBar, Deputy Attorney General Richard Bradbury, and Lehigh County’s Chief Deputy District Attorney David Mussel. All charges discussed are accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Consumers who believe that they may have been a victim of the practices of any of the above dealerships, vehicle inspectors, or tag agents, or have information about this or other forms of vehicle or title fraud should reach out to the Office of Attorney General by emailing the Insurance Fraud Section at titlefraud@attorneygeneral.gov.

Download the FOX43 app

Before You Leave, Check This Out