Local probe uncovers $3M in fraudulently-documented auto sales

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) An investigation by the Heart of Texas Auto Theft Task Force that started in March focused on a Waco-area auto salvage dealer suspected of failing to properly document and report the sale of vehicles to a local metal recycler led to the discovery of more than $3 million in fraudulently-documented sales and the recovery of 17 stolen vehicles, Burnet County sheriff’s Lt. Howard Stinehour, the task force’s commander, said in a press release Tuesday.

Authorities have made three arrests so far in the investigation, which the task force launched the investigation at the request of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

“The investigation identified one individual who, using an expired salvage license employed up to 10 people in an enterprise involving the acquisition and sale of stolen or abandoned vehicles and parts to the metal recycler,” Stinehour said.

In order to complete the sales, the suspect, whom Stinehour didn’t identify, “made fraudulent entries on over 2,000 government documents.”

The investigation also uncovered fraudulent insurance settlements on several of the vehicles, he said.

“Additionally, the investigation also uncovered a scheme whereby a used car dealer in Waco sold forged temporary registration tags that were then used on tow trucks to facilitate the acquisition of stolen or abandoned vehicles within an area that stretched from Dallas to Waco,” he said.

Agencies involved in the investigation included the Heart of Texas Auto Theft Task Force; investigators from Burnet, Coryell and Limestone Counties; the National Insurance Crime Bureau agent for the Waco area; Texas Department of Public Safety investigators; the McLennan County Sheriff's Office; the Waco Police Department; the Falls County Sheriff's Office; the Marlin Police Department; and the Department of Motor Vehicles for the Waco and Austin regions.

The investigation is ongoing, Stinehour said.