Cars with junk titles in other states get proper titles in Massachusetts – Boston 25 News

BOSTON — Days after 25 Investigations first reported that a Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) employee was fired for fabricating fraudulent car titles, investigative reporter Ted Daniel has learned from other title irregularities at the agency.

A tipster alerted him to a lawsuit that reveals several cases of unchecked “title washing” at the RMV. The document, which we retrieved from Suffolk County Superior Court, says Liberty Mutual is suing nine Massachusetts people, most of them in the used car repair and sales business, for fraudulently inflating the value of badly damaged vehicles by obtaining illegal titles that hid the history of the cars.

The lawsuit lists the various vehicles in question, including their titles and vehicle identification numbers (VIN). Using a public database, 25 investigators entered VINs and were able to view vehicle histories. Our research confirmed that all cars, which received the MA RMV stamp of approval, had been written off as totaled in other states.

For example, a broken BMW sold at an insurance auction for $29,000. The luxury sports car, which had suffered extensive damage, was given a salvage title in California because the insurance company deemed it a total loss. But 25 investigators found it was registered here in Massachusetts after the RMV issued the vehicle a clear or clean title.

According to the RMV website, “A salvage title is permanent and a salvage vehicle can never be given a clear title.”

With the salvage history cleared, the BMW’s insurance value nearly tripled to $78,000.

According to Liberty Mutual, the RMV failed to detect this blatant fraud. The lawsuit alleges that the BMW was successfully registered and titled in Massachusetts after the person requesting a proper title submitted the unwanted old title with stickers that covered all references to the salvage mark. This cute low-tech sticker trick has overtaken RMV employees, according to the suit.

We wanted to know how difficult it would be to determine if a title is clean or not, so we asked the Insurance Fraud Bureau in Massachusetts. The bureau’s executive director, Anthony DiPaolo, told us that verifying the authenticity of a title shouldn’t be difficult.

“It only takes a little effort for people to find it,” he said.

DiPaolo, whose agency is not involved in the Liberty Mutual case, explained the dangers of stockwashing.

“If the damage is so bad, you won’t put that car back on the road because it’s defective. It has lost its integrity, it has lost its mechanisms. It wouldn’t be safe for that care to be conducted,” he said.

The lawsuit also claims that two other BMWs – another from California and one from Illinois, – a Maserati and a Volkswagen from Texas, and an Aston Martin from Florida were all taken away by the Massachusetts RMV.

Using the Vehicle History Report Database it was easy to determine that all vehicles had salvage titles before they were registered in Massachusetts.

We asked RMV how the agency checks a title’s history. An agency spokesperson said by email that an employee “visually inspects state titles” and screens title transactions through the National Motor Vehicle Titles Information System (NMVTIS).

According to an information video 25 Investigations found on youtube “Federal law requires all states to use the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.”

NMVTIS is a electronic database which records a vehicle’s history from state to state.

We provided the RMV with the VINs of the six vehicles listed in the lawsuit and asked why they were given proper titles.

In an email, a spokesperson said: “The Register of Motor Vehicles (RMV) remains vigilant in investigating any potentially fraudulent transactions that come to its attention and improving processes to mitigate such actions.”

According to Liberty Mutual’s lawsuit, one of the defendants received three separate checks totaling $268,000, after washing titles through the RMV and filing new total loss insurance claims.

Title washing is a crime. We asked Attorney General Maura Healey’s office if there was a criminal investigation, but a spokesperson declined to comment.

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