Friday, March 14, 2008

Nine persons were named yesterday in a 34-count indictment that accuses several car dealerships in Ohio of selling phony identification cards to illegal immigrants to facilitate the sale of vehicles.

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones told The Washington Times yesterday his office received information that local car dealerships were selling vehicles to illegal immigrants and knowingly processing the titles and registrations under fictitious names with the State of Ohio and Butler County.

Acting on that tip, Sheriff Jones said he sent undercover officers to a dealership and on “their very first attempt,” were sold fake identification cards which were then used to purchase a vehicle. The undercover officers represented themselves as illegal immigrants.

“The dealership proceeded to process the title and registration under this known fake identification,” he said, noting that “further investigation would later reveal that the Social Security number provided actually belonged to someone else.”

Over the next several months, Sheriff Butler said the undercover officers were able to make several similar transactions. He said the Social Security Administration and the State of Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles was brought in to assist in the investigation and the BMV identified 30 similar transactions from the dealerships in a two-month period.

“At one point during this investigation, undercover officers were contacted by one of the suspects who oddly enough identified himself as a ‘detective with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.’ The suspect was trying to coerce undercover officers into making additional payments and had no idea he was actually dealing with real undercover officers,” the sheriff said.

Search warrants were executed at three local car dealerships and nine persons are expected to be arrested. Those indicted were accused of charges including tampering with records, falsely taking the name of another and impersonating a police officer.

The owners of the dealerships were among those arrested.

Sheriff Jones said the vehicles purchased by undercover officers were not in poor condition and “obviously overpriced which indicated to undercover officers that the dealerships were looking for huge profits from the illegal transactions.”

He also said the dealerships allowed one employee, an illegal immigrant, to change his name, date of birth, and Social Security number so he could become a certified salesman through the BMV.

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