The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Division of Field Investigation (DFI) has been recognized for its efforts to fight crime and protect consumers from fraud. This week two DMV investigators were awarded the John J. Kennedy Award by the New York Anti Car Theft and Fraud Association (NYACT) for their role in breaking up criminal networks that were altering “Rebuilt Salvage” vehicle titles to defraud unsuspecting customers and conceal automotive theft.
“DMV takes consumer protection very seriously, and we have zero tolerance for anyone who uses unscrupulous business practices to cheat customers,” said Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan. “I commend Senior Investigators Antoine Rainville and William Corp for their hard work and commitment to fighting fraud and crime that earned them this well-deserved award.”
The case began about two years ago, when Sr. Investigator Rainville determined that a title issued by a mid-western state had been altered to conceal that the vehicle was a rebuilt salvage. DMV regulations require a title certificate be marked or “branded” with “REBUILT SALVAGE,” if the vehicle is eight-model-years-old or newer and was destroyed or received damage of 75 percent or more of the retail value.
Investigators Rainville and Corp determined that more than 2,600 rebuilt salvage title applications had been submitted by four out-of-state dealerships since 2015, with a potential loss for consumers of more than $20 million, based on the average vehicle price. Of those vehicles, more than 35 were sent to New York.
Rainville and Corp led the subsequent investigation with the assistance of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Auto Crime Unit and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as part of the FBI Joint Major Theft Task Force (JMTTF).
After interviewing the vehicle owners, the investigators identified the suspect, who operated a body shop in New Jersey and lived in Brooklyn. A majority of the more than 35 New York vehicles were sold on Craigslist. While none of the vehicles were stolen, the investigators found parts without a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). They also found vehicles with used airbags, some of which were not installed properly.
The suspect was determined to be the ringleader of an organized criminal network using altered titles to defraud customers. He and three accomplices were indicted on federal charges of wire fraud and conspiracy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The investigation also uncovered another criminal network involved in vehicle theft, VIN altering, and the use of altered/counterfeit motor vehicle documents to conceal stolen vehicles. So far, a total of 75 stolen vehicles have been linked to this network and more than 45 of them have been recovered, resulting in the arrest of eight people. Some may face both federal and state charges. This investigation is ongoing and may result in additional arrests.
About NYACT and the John J. Kennedy Award
NYACT was established to promote cooperation between the insurance industry, law enforcement, and other interested entities in combating vehicle theft and insurance fraud. It sponsors training seminars for law enforcement and industry personnel throughout New York State and supports anti-theft programs, including free VIN-etching programs. The association also updates legislators and industry regulators on issues related to auto theft and fraud.
The John J. Kennedy Award recognizes outstanding service by law enforcement in investigating and preventing auto theft and insurance fraud. It is named in honor of J.J. Kennedy, who was a detective with the NYPD’s Auto Crimes Division and later a special agent with the National Auto Theft Bureau, which became the National Insurance Crime Bureau.