19 charged in tri-state car dealership title washing ring

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Used car dealer - File Photo.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Thirteen auto dealerships and nineteen individuals were cited for a vehicle title-washing scam that put dangerous, previously totaled vehicles back on the roads by unsuspecting customers.

Pennsylvania Attorney Josh Shapiro said the operators of the ring took defective vehicles and removed past accident history and sold those cars to customers as safe. Those cars were sold in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, the state announced.

The participants in these criminal rings included George Frietto of George’s Garage, Luis Salazar of Salazar Auto Sales and N & G Towing, their employees, several used-car dealers from within and outside Pennsylvania, and an authorized tag and title agency, the Attorney General’s Office said today.

“These defendants used their positions and knowledge of PennDOT requirements to defraud state and federal authorities, hide stolen vehicles, and put unsuspecting drivers at risk,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Vehicles that have been totaled must not only be repaired but also undergo an enhanced safety inspection to make sure they are safe. These defendants instead allowed hundreds of heavily-damaged vehicles onto roadways in Pennsylvania, and around the country without even looking at them.”

The charges allege the owners of the businesses and those involved in the scam did not provide the necessary safety checks in order to resell a totaled vehicle as roadworthy.

The state alleges in many cases, the vehicles were never even inspected. The ring also sold stolen vehicles to unsuspecting customers, the state claims.

“As part of this investigation, it was found that Frietto claimed to have completed over 240 “inspections” during a ten-day period in December 2020,” the state said in a statement today. “During this time, however, investigators had conducted surveillance outside of George’s Garage and saw that Frietto’s own vehicle was the only one to enter the shop. As part of each reconstructed title application, Frietto was required to submit photographs of the vehicle he had inspected. Instead, Frietto completed the paperwork using stock photographs of the vehicles which were frequently not the same make and/or model of the vehicle named on the paperwork.”

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.