Police: Auto tag ring stole Pa. residents' IDs

June 20, 2008 3:38:36 PM PDT
State police have arrested four people in Pennsylvania in connection with an alleged phony auto tag operation being run out of North Philadelphia. It all has to do with illegally registered cars and identity theft. Pennsylvania state police say they have busted a ring that put thousands of illegally registered vehicles on the road in the names of thousands of innocent people, many of whom don't even know they've been victimized.

Police rounded up four suspects Friday morning and are still looking for a fifth.

Among them, 48 year old Andrew Shapiro of Bensalem.

Until a year ago, he ran Bassett's Auto Tag Service out of a building on North Broad Street and another location in Olney.

It's now under new ownership.

Bassetts was a legitimate registration service licensed by Penndot.

Police say they did a lot of business with a sham agency called Exotic Image Services. Exotic allegedly helped process illegal registrations for their vehicles.

Those registrations were taken out in the names of unwitting Pennsylvania residents and are untraceable to the vehicle owner.

The owner then avoids having to buy insurance and can thumb his nose at the law.

But the person whose name has been used for the registration is left holding the bag.

They may be getting parking tickets and citations in the mail from cities they never visited.

Police have arrested the owner of Exotic, 45 year old Elaine Maldonado.

They estimate over the past few years she issued thousands of illegal registrations with the help of Bassett's and another tag company called VMR that operated out of this building in North Philadelphia.

Some of Exotic's customers were waiting outside the now closed business today.

They showed us receipts indicating how much cash they had paid to get registrations. Hector's bill was $660. Pedro paid $570.

Police say people were coming from as far away as New York and New Jersey to get the fake registrations. Shaprio, Maldonado and the other two suspects arrested today are being held in Harrisburg on $50,000 cash bail each.