State of California Targets Street Rod Owners for Potential Fraud
10/13/2004 5:45:51 PM
Subject: Forwarded From Henry Carranza to Scrub Hansen and then here to Oilstick.com
By Brian Brennan
On Wednesday the 6th of October, 22 law enforcement agents and other individuals from the State of California, Department of Justice Fraud Division, Department of Motor Vehicles, California Highway Patrol, Department of Automotive Repair and others arrived with guns drawn and flak vests on at the shop of Boyd Coddington Hot Rods &Collectibles (La Habra, California).
No, this wasn't the making of an episode of American Hotrod but rather a bonified attempt to serve a warrant issued and carried out by duly vested officers for the purpose of investigating Boyd Coddington on the suspicion of fraud. The alleged fraud charges stemmed from an ongoing investigation by the State of California that has for the past several years been limited to the kit car industry but has now been expanded to the street rod industry. The State of California is looking for cars that meet one or more of the following criteria that would lead to registration or license fee fraud
Street Rodder has learned via e-mail communications with Robert Morgester, the Deputy Attorney General Special Crimes Unit for the State of California Department of Justice, "The California Attorney General's Office has been conducting an investigation into the fraudulent registration of replica vehicles. The initial investigation was limited to Cobra replica vehicles due to known VIN sequences. We are aware that the same fraudulent vehicle registration issues apply to other replica vehicles and hot rods.
To correct a common misunderstanding of California law, it is a felony to do the following:
1. Register a vehicle where the year of vehicle is misrepresented;
2. Register a vehicle where the value of the vehicle is understated; or
3. Register a vehicle where the year of the vehicle is misrepresented to avoid compliance with California smog laws.
Any of the above actions are a felony in violation of Vehicle Code Section 4463(a). Additionally, the above actions constitute the crime of perjury, in that all statement of facts contained in California DMV documents are taken under penalty of perjury."
In speaking with Boyd Coddington he told SRM that the State of California seized certain company records for further investigation. Boyd also told SRM that three license plates were removed from vehicles within his consignment shop. These vehicles were built decades ago by the likes of Fat Jack and Pete &Jake's. Apparently the state of California is looking into any improprieties that would lead to the state being "shorted" tax or registration dollars.
Boyd also told SRM that he had to show records proving such vehicles as the Whatthehey and the Alumatub were legally registered and taxed, which they were. He also had to show records on two of his Boydster's that were built and given away as to how they were registered and how were the vehicle's values determined and did the new owners pay the appropriate taxes. At the time of this writing it appears Boyd's business has done everything according to the law but that SRM has been told the investigations will not stop with his shop. Boyd was singled out because of his "visibility" on the television show American Hotrod and that other California builders would soon be paid a visit.
Additionally, SRM learned that law enforcement officials, it is believed were California Highway Patrol, recently visited the Labor Day Cruise, held annually in Costa Mesa at the fairgrounds, looking for "suspicious" vehicles. When asked what constituted a "suspicious vehicle" it was determined that any fiberglass car is suspect.
Again, according to the Office of the Attorney General from the State of California, its Department of Justice, "To date, the ongoing investigation has identified at least five other out-of-state companies that have provided fraudulent vehicle purchase agreements and titles to California vehicle owners. The companies are in Alabama, Nevada, New York and Florida. The Attorney General's Office believes as many as 70,000 vehicles have been illegally registered in California through these scam operations.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles is in the process of canceling registrations that involve documents obtained from Titles Unlimited. (Titles Unlimited is believed to have provided false documents to Californians that cost the state more than $1 million in tax revenues and license fees over the past two years, and as much as $14 million since 1975, when the company began operating.) The Attorney General's Office also has notified law enforcement officials in more than 20 counties regarding residents who titled their cars through the company for possible prosecution."
Attorney General Bill Lockyer of the State of California tells us that an Alabama man was convicted on felony charges for issuing false vehicle titles in a scam that has cost the State of California millions of dollars in lost tax revenues and license fees.
"This illegal operation provided false information regarding the purchase of expensive vehicles to hundreds of Californians, which allowed them to avoid smog requirements and pay reduced sales taxes and vehicle registration fees," Lockyer said. "At a time when California and its residents are forced to confront painful budget choices, these scam artists defrauded the state and all law-abiding taxpayers who have done their part to get through our economic slump. We will continue to investigate to ensure these tax cheats are brought to justice."
Street Rodder has contacted SEMA and they are immediately investigating to see what options rodders have, especially the thousands of rodders who have operated in good faith for decades and have done nothing to raise the suspicion of the state. To all street rodders this is the single most important subject to be addressed by our industry in all the years that any of the staff members can recall. Stay in touch with Street Rodder: we are on top of his developing story and will bring www.streetrodderweb.com readers more information as we get it.