25 Investigates

25 Investigates: Fraudulent vehicle titles were issued by RMV, source says

A day after the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) announced that 4 employees were fired for granting licenses to people who hadn’t taken road tests, 25 Investigates exposes another black eye at the agency.

Investigative reporter Ted Daniel uncovered vehicle titles may have been illegally produced at RMV Headquarters.

Our team has spent months trying to figure out if the scheme involves one rogue state employee or is part of something bigger, after receiving a tip from someone on the inside back in October.

According to that tipster, an employee at RMV headquarters in Quincy had been suspended with pay for her handling of titles, including salvage titles. We are withholding the employee’s name since she has not been charged with a crime.

We asked the RMV about the employee and the questionable titles. The agency wouldn’t provide specifics, but in an email acknowledged that the employee in question " is no longer employed by MassDOT.”

A vehicle title is a legal document that proves who is the legitimate owner of a car. A salvage title is assigned to a vehicle “declared a total loss” by an insurance company after a crash, flood, fire or other damage.

In Massachusetts, certain vehicles with salvage titles can be repaired and returned to the road but only after a rigorous state police inspection.

Greg Sullivan, a former Massachusetts Inspector General and the research director at the Pioneer Institute, says salvaged vehicles are typically rigorously inspected by the state police before a title is issued.

“It has to do with safety and swapping parts,” said Sullivan. “Anybody driving on a highway in Massachusetts street, a highway should be very concerned about this and want to get to the bottom of it.”

The RMV will not reveal how many fraudulent titles were produced. But an internal email obtained by 25 Investigates shows 10 car dealers and repair shops were flagged at the time of the investigation.

In it, the Assistant Registrar of Vehicle Services told employees, “do not process any transaction for the following companies below.”

Later, in a follow up email marked “Correction” she told staff to “check with a title supervisor….before processing….”

25 Investigates contacted all 10 dealers reference on the list to learn more.

Only two would confirm they were aware of an investigation, after they were contacted about vehicles they either sold or never had on their lots. Both said they were visited by state police investigators. One claimed more than 20 titles were issued for vehicles he never sold but were made to appear like they came from his dealership. Another told us one of his customers somehow obtained a salvage reconstructed title without a state police inspection.

“The supervisor, they all came in trying to figure out the way that guy hadn’t been to an inspection. They had a title, a reconstructed [title]. I had nothing to do with it, " a Bridgewater used car dealer told 25 Investigates.

In all case, dealers told us they were not involved with the fraud scheme. 25 Investigates has no evidence of any wrongdoing by those dealers.

In a statement the RMV told us “The Registry has held hearings with individuals regarding registrations that may be attached to fraudulently issued titles…” and that the agency “…terminated one employee involved in this matter and will continue to cooperate with any investigation.”

The RMV says it has instituted additional internal control to help strengthen the title approval process. However, they would not tell us what those are.

Title fraud is a crime. We asked the State Police about this case. A spokesperson referred us back to the RMV. The Attorney General’s Office also declined to comment.

To learn more on how to protect yourself from title fraud, click here.

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