November 10, 2017
A legislative effort to cut down on fraud against Texas drivers has resulted in the growth of a dangerous enterprise putting salvage vehicles on the road. KXAN investigators made that discovery by embedding with a Travis County task force aimed at stopping this criminal ring, in addition to sending its own news crews undercover to salvage auctions, fly-by-the-night car dealerships and inspection stations skirting the law to make a few extra bucks. Unsuspecting buyers were shelling out their money only to end up with vehicles that could fall apart while being driven.
During the course of this investigation, local law enforcement issued dozens of misdemeanor and felony warrants against those entities – an operation officers felt was necessary because the state was unaware and unable to tackle the problem on its own. We revealed – despite lawmakers’ move to make the state vehicle inspection system more difficult to bypass and commit fraud – criminals had started to take increasing advantage of temporary, paper license plates.
We found the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles was unable to truly battle the problem, as it had no law enforcement arm. However, the state Senator who authored the original legislation reacted to the investigation with a promise to work toward a better solution ahead of the next legislative session.
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Submitted by Josh Hinkle.