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State charges garages, car dealers with 'title washing' fraud

Businesses in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Carbon, and Monroe County were named by the attorney general's office.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — The Pennsylvania attorney general's office has announced charges against more than a dozen businesses and individuals in a car "title washing" scheme.

The businesses include a title company, garages, and used car dealers in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Carbon, and Monroe Counties.

According to a release from the attorney general, the ring coordinated to purchase totaled vehicles, falsify inspection information, and submit fraudulent title applications to PennDOT. This fraud was designed to bypass requirements for reconstructed titles in states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, or to make stolen vehicles look legitimate for resale or export.

Investigators said the garages failed to conduct enhanced inspections on totaled vehicles after they were repaired and used stock photos of similar vehicles instead of the actual vehicles.

"That requires an enhanced inspection. you essentially have to bring that vehicle up to the proper code and manufacturing requirements that it's safe," said Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell

The D.A. says the discovery of these crimes started at George's Garage on North Keyser Avenue. County detectives said George Frietto claimed to have completed over 240 inspections during a ten-day period in December 2020 but investigators say they had video proof that wasn't true.

"A high volume of titles were being issued without actual inspections taking place," Powell said. "It's all paperwork, but it's fraudulent paperwork. Not only were they collecting money, but they were really causing some great degree of harm for everyday citizens and for law enforcement in general."

Powell says as the investigation continued, they discovered other auto businesses became involved. including a tag and title shop in Scranton, and several auto repair and sales businesses in Scranton, Taylor, and Old Forge.

The state says none of the businesses followed the requirements to make vehicles roadworthy again. Instead, just forged the paperwork. Some of the vehicles that were supposedly inspected at their shops never actually entered Pennsylvania.

"Not only are they allowing unsafe vehicles on the roadway, it's also an opportunity to hide stolen vehicles and make them unable to be detected, and then that criminal activity leads to other criminal activity," Powell said. "They would take a stolen vehicle, buy a junk vehicle, and revision those numbers are issued new VIN numbers to the stolen vehicle, avoiding detection."

Charges against the individuals and businesses involved include: 

  • forgery 
  • washing vehicle titles
  • deceptive business practices
  • tampering with public records
  • false application for certificate of title
  • altered, forged, or counterfeit documents 
  • insurance fraud
  • bribery.

The defendants are as follows:

  • George Frietto
  • John Mulea
  • Kara Cosgrove
  • Angel Rios
  • Peter Tayoun
  • Sandra Klassner
  • Alivia Auriemma
  • Armando De La Paz
  • Jorge Santos-Hernandez
  • Pawel Bryla
  • Eva Contrares
  • Alvaro Rodriguez
  • Luis Leyva
  • Anibelkis Garcia
  • Sherif Helmy.

The 13 businesses charged are as follows:

  • George’s Garage in Scranton
  • PA Tag & Title in Scranton
  • Luci’s Auto Sales, LLC in Old Forge
  • Newroad Motors in Lebanon
  • Best Value Auto Outlet/Oli’s Auto Sales in Scranton
  • PBJ Motors in Taylor
  • ALZ Auto Sales in Mount Pocono
  • Aquino Auto Mall in Lehighton
  • EOS Auto Sales in Taylor
  • Alliance Auto/Alliance Auto Sport, Inc. in Exeter
  • Salazar Auto Sales in York
  • N & G Towing, Body Shop and Sales, LLC in Dover
  • Beltin Auto Sales, LLC in York.

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