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NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) — The type of vehicle title fraud that temporarily toppled a local tree service company for several weeks is growing, according to a Tampa area tax collector.
The owners of family-run Moore Cuts Florida Tree Service discovered someone fraudulently obtained a duplicate title to their vehicle by allegedly forging a document that was processed by the New Port Richey DMV office.
The issue forced them to take the vehicle out of service until they could reinstate their title and registration.
Notarized signatures are not required for DMV transactions but Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano recalled that many years ago, signatures on paperwork such as title transfers did have to be notarized.
“That’s all been taken away,” Fasano said. “You don’t need a notary anymore.”
Fasano said the number of fraud cases seems to be on the rise in recent years.
“I want to be careful using the word rampant but it’s growing,” Fasano said. “And with Florida’s population growing, we could see more of this.”
Removing the notarization requirement might have expedited the process but it apparently opened the door for fraud.
Matthew Moore found that out the hard way after his wife tried to re-re-register their truck.
A car dealer runner, who is paid to bring various documents to the DMV for processing, is accused of submitting a fraudulent document last year to obtain a duplicate title for the Moore’s truck.
The document included a signature that Moore said was an obvious forgery.
Gaining a title could allow the thief to take a loan out on a vehicle or worse. The Moores said they feared the suspect would follow them to a job site and take the vehicle the suspect already owned on paper.
“We’ve been underwater for almost a month now not being able to do anything for fear that they would physically steal our truck after stealing it on paper,” Jennifer Moore said.
Fasano said he banned the runner under investigation for fraud in the Moore case from doing business at the New Port Richey DMV for claiming he could not recall what dealer he was working for.
“I said to him if you don’t remember who provided these fraudulent documents to you then you’re not welcome back at the tax collector’s office as a runner,” Fasano said.
Fasano and the Moores agree it’s time to change the rules and require notarized documents to fight fraud that is trending in the wrong direction.
“If the state DMV would go back to the days when a notary would have to sign off on that signature, then, this would never have happened. You would see less fraud going on around the state,” Fasano added.
Fasano said he had implemented requirements for clerks to check individuals identification and signatures who come in to transfer titles in Pasco County DMV offices. But he said that policy does not apply to vehicle dealer runners who submit several title documents at a time.
The Moore’s case remains under investigation with two suspects, but so far no charges. 8 On Your Side was able to find one of the suspects. He denied knowing about the investigation and said he did not do anything wrong.