The Corner Forum
Sunday, Aug. 31, 2003
Issue #45

Md. Ave. Car Dealer Raided During Investigation

By Libo Liu, 500 block of 14th Street NE

On any given day, Walter Anderson is an amiable and happy person.

Having worked as a mechanic for over 10 years and for quite some time at the Chandler's II Car Repair Shop at 628 14th St. NE, Mr. Anderson knows the auto trade well and has the skill to be a good mechanic.

Lately, though, he hasn't been that happy.

It all started about two months ago, when Mr. Anderson and his wife were shopping for a used car for her at QX Cars and Trucks, 1400 Maryland Ave. NE. They found a good looking one with sound mechanics. The price of $3,700 wasn't too bad for what it was, though they could not come up with the whole amount. Nevertheless, they liked the car so much that they paid a big portion of the bill and took the car without the title. The Andersons understood that they had to pay off the balance before the dealer would turn over the title to them.

Over the last two months, the Andersons worked hard and paid down a total of $3,500 towards the purchase. Last week, when they gathered $200 and went to the dealer to pay off the balance and get the title, something unexpected happened. The dealer told the Andersons that all titles for the cars the dealer had been taken away by the police.

According to a press release by D.C. Police, QX Cars and Trucks was raided on Tuesday, Aug. 19, by the Focused Mission Team of the D.C. Police, assisted by several federal agencies, in connection with an ongoing investigation into the sale and transfer of fraudulently issued and altered temporary registration tags. Search warrants on five other car dealers in Northeast were also executed by the police task force.

These car dealers were allegedly profiting from illegally issuing the 30-day temporary registration tags to cars that were stolen, could not pass inspection or did not have insurance.

According to Mr. White at the call center of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, a 30-day temporary tag can only be issued to a car that has just been bought or to a car that has just passed the expiration date of regular registration but failed an inspection. The 30-day temporary tag can only be issued once to the same car and cannot be renewed. Also, an owner must present the title, driver license and proof of valid insurance to have such a temporary title issued.

The DMV, besides issuing the temporary tags to car owners directly, also sends a licensed car dealer up to 10 such paper tags at a time, so the dealer can issue a temporary tag to a car that has just been sold there. The dealer is required to send the paperwork of a sales transaction to the DMV for processing and within five to 10 days receive a regular hard plate from the DMV for its customer.

But Regina Williams, spokeswoman for the DMV, told the Corner Forum that some of the dealers that are under investigation allegedly issued such paper tags without sending the required paperwork to the DMV. She said some dealers have deliberately sent in fraudulent information to cover up their dealings. She also said some of paper tags were counterfeited, perhaps being printed out by laser printers. Ms. Williams said the DMV is working on how to make paper tags more difficult to counterfeit and also working more closely with the police and the Department of Public Works. She called on citizens to help deal with the problem as well.

I visited QX Cars and Trucks on Thursday and Friday. The managers declined to be interviewed for this story.

The Focused Mission Team of D.C. Police also declined a request from the Corner Forum to provide detailed information on the current investigation but said, "It is up to the district attorney's office to decide whether any charges will be filed against those car dealers."

Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson was told by the dealer that the title of his wife's car could be available by next Wednesday or Thursday.

"If we can't get the title, we may have to file a suit with the small claim's court to get our money back," Mr. Anderson said reluctantly.

It could be a while before he becomes a happy guy again. §