Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck recently announced a 65-count indictment against nine defendants charged with conspiring to use stolen identities to obtain New Jersey digital driver’s licenses, which they used to fraudulently purchase and finance vehicles worth over $1.3 million at dealerships in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The defendants have been charged with a variety of alleged crimes, including conspiracy, receiving stolen property, impersonation, theft by deception, and tampering with public records and information. The defendants were initially charged in September 2020 as part of Operation Export, an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau that began with a referral from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) Security and Investigations Unit.
The defendants allegedly obtained New Jersey digital driver’s licenses from the Jersey City and North Bergen Motor Vehicle Agencies using the stolen identities of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and fake Puerto Rico driver’s licenses, as well as other false documents, including Social Security cards, debit cards, and birth certificates. From February 2017 through March 2019, they are alleged to have fraudulently purchased, financed, titled more than two dozen motor vehicles using the fraudulently obtained New Jersey driver’s licenses. Ten vehicles were recovered in the U.S., but others were shipped overseas.
NJMVC alerted the Attorney General’s Office after discovering that the Puerto Rico driver’s licenses that the defendants used to obtain New Jersey digital driver’s licenses were fraudulent. After buying a vehicle on credit, the defendants allegedly “washed” the vehicle title by creating a false lien release or fraudulent title indicating there was no lien on the vehicle. The fake document was used to obtain a clean title in another state. That clean title was then used to transfer ownership to another individual, often within the conspiracy, allowing the vehicle to be shipped overseas.
Federal law enforcement agencies in New Jersey and other states uncovered the same or similar criminal activity and are pursuing charges against several of the New Jersey defendants, as well as other individuals.
This indictment serves as a reminder for dealership employees to be vigilant in verifying customer identities and remain aware of any potential red flags
The indictment is posted online at: https://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases21/Gonzalez-et-al-Indictment.pdf.