Hey, Sleepy Al! Here’s an idea for problem-solving legislation: maybe you could propose a bill to tighten up our motor vehicle registration laws so South Dakota can stop aiding and abetting car thieves:
A ring of savvy car thieves in New York exploited a bureaucratic weakness by registering many of their ripped-off Lamborghinis and Range Rovers in South Dakota, a state that lets people register out-of-state vehicles by mail and wasn’t thoroughly checking to see if they were stolen, the FBI said.
…In all, the group stole about $3.1 million worth of vehicles, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. The heists included the theft of five 2017 Nissan Titan pickups taken from a dealership in Tallahassee, Florida, and a Lamborghini Huracan stolen in Miami, according to court documents.
…According to the FBI, [alleged ringleader Marvin] Williams registered 43 vehicles with the South Dakota Division of Motor Vehicles using false documentation. At least 10 of those vehicles had been reported stolen, authorities said [Jim Mustian, “Feds: 60 Luxury Vehicles Were Stolen by National Theft Ring. 43 Were Registered in South Dakota,” Rapid City Journal, updated 2018.11.10].
FBI Special Agent Kevin M. Gonyo says in the official complaint to the Southern District Court of New York that South Dakota is uniquely helpful to thieves wanting to launder their vehicular booty:
I have reviewed records obtained from the SDDMV, which show that MARVIN WILLIAMS, the defendant, who resides in Connecticut, has registered approximately forty-three vehicles in South Dakota, with the SDDMV, on behalf of himself and others, and has submitted false documentation, including false titles with invalid VINs, to the SDDMV to do so. In contrast to other states, prior to this investigation the SDDMV conducted fewer or no checks to confirm authenticity of VINs and lawful ownership in connection with registration of vehicles [FBI Special Agent Kevin M. Gonyo, Complaint, USA v. Marvin Williams et al., U.S. Southern District Court of New York, 2018.11.06, p. 6].
Based on my review of SDDMV records, compared with other records, inculding records from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”) database, I have found that at least ten of the vehicles MARVIN WILLIAMS, the defendant, registered through the SDDMV were reported stolen. In addition, based on searches conducted in VIN Check, a publically available VIN databse, and information provided from vehicle manufacturers, including Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automative, I know that at least approximately twenty of the vehicles that MARVIN WILLIAMS, the defendant, registered through the SDDMV were registered with invalid VIN numbers [Gonyo, 2018.11.06, p. 6].
The press release from U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman thanks the South Dakota Division of Motor Vehicles and the South Dakota Lake County Treasurer’s Office for their assistance in the investigation. Perhaps DMV boss-boss and Revenue Secretary Andy Gerlach and Lake County treasurer Debra Walburg will be able to drop in on some Legislative hearings this winter and tell legislators what went wrong here, what statutes we could revise, and what resources the state could provide to help us crack down on motor vehicle theft.
Update 14:28 CST: Hat tip to Grandma (a really smart lady in the comment section) for noticing the Lake County Sheriff‘s praise on Facebook for the “girls” in the treasurer’s office whose “quick action” helped nail this East Coast auto theft ring: