Pennsylvania’s Attorney General has filed charges against three Lebanon auto dealers, accusing them of being part of a Philadelphia-based crime ring that has been falsifying titles and inspections of totaled and stolen vehicles since 2018.

Criminal charges were announced in a press release issued Dec. 9 by Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office.

“They gamed the system and put consumers at risk to rack up millions of dollars in illegal profits,” Shapiro said in the release. “This was widespread criminal conduct and today we brought a halt to it.”

The local dealers are Amatti Auto Sales LLC, Grig LLC, and Newroad Motors LLC.  Prosecutors listed their addresses as 28, 30, and 32 N. 16th Street, Lebanon.

The three businesses face a variety of felony and misdemeanor charges, including participating in a corrupt organization, forgery, and criminal conspiracy. They are accused of conspiring with each other and with individual defendants Igor Dratch of Philadelphia, Oleg Zelenko of Langhorne, and David Morrison of Feasterville.

Shapiro, in the statement, said the defendants “used their positions and knowledge of PennDOT requirements to defraud state and federal authorities and put unsuspecting drivers at risk.”

“Vehicles that have been totaled must not only be repaired but also undergo an enhanced safety inspection to ensure they are safe,” Shapiro explained. “The defendants instead allowed hundreds of heavily-damaged vehicles onto the roadways in Pennsylvania, and around the country without even looking at them.”

The schemes, Shapiro said in the release, could have led to “to potentially dangerous cars on the road.”

The majority of the 51 individual and business defendants are in Philadelphia and its suburbs. None of the individual defendants is listed as having a Lebanon County address.

Pennsylvania law allows a corporation to be convicted of a crime if the offense was “authorized, requested, commanded, performed or recklessly tolerated by the board of directors or a high managerial agent” acting on behalf of the corporation.

Charges against all defendants were filed in Dauphin County, and stem from the recommendation of a statewide investigating grand jury.

Preliminary hearings before Dauphin County Magisterial District Judge David Judy are scheduled for Dec. 22.

The Attorney General says the three businesses are next door to one another at 28-32 N. 16th Street in Lebanon. (LebTown)

The Attorney General said that the defendants’ “title washing fraud was designed to bypass rigid requirements for reconstructed titles in states such as New Jersey and New York. The re-titling of these stolen vehicles was intended to make those vehicles look legitimate for resale or export.

“The participants in these criminal networks are alleged to have purchased totaled vehicles, that they then falsified inspection information for and submitted fraudulent title applications to PennDOT as well as removing and changing the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) attached to each vehicle to bypass police detection of stolen vehicles.”

Online searches failed to reveal phone numbers or emails for Amatti, Grig, or Newroad. All three businesses were closed when LebTown visited them on the afternoons of Dec. 13 and 14.

A Dec. 14 call to a phone number posted on the door of Grig LLC at 30 N. 16th Street was answered by a man who had no comment and would not give his name.

“The arrests effectuated today emphasize our commitment to investigate any type of fraud associated with motor vehicles, titling, and affiliated records,” Pennsylvania State Police Captain James Cuttitta, Special Investigations Division of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said in the release.

“These crimes victimize unsuspecting, law-abiding citizens of Pennsylvania and beyond when they purchase these vehicles, only to learn later the vehicles have significant defects,” Cuttitta said. “The Pennsylvania State Police will continue to work with all District Attorney’s Offices, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and other partners to conduct additional investigations and hold those responsible accountable.”

Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Charges filed against the 30 individuals listed in the release include corrupt organizations, forgery, washing vehicle titles, deceptive business practices, tampering with public records, false application for certificate of title, insurance fraud, and altered, forged, or counterfeit documents. Charges against the 21 businesses include washing vehicle titles, deceptive business practices, tampering with public records, false application for certificate of title, and altered, forged, or counterfeit documents.

Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of the practices of the dealerships, vehicle inspectors, or tag agents involved in the scheme should send an email to the Insurance Fraud Section of the Attorney General’s office at titlefraud@attorneygeneral.gov.

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Chris Coyle

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...

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