NYC sheriff seizes 54 ‘ghost cars’ with fake plates in upper Manhattan sweep

·2 min read

The city Sheriff’s Department seized 54 cars with fake license plates in upper Manhattan early Monday in a crackdown on “ghost vehicles” that are popular among criminals.

The sweep ran from 12:15 a.m. until 5:15 a.m. in the NYPD’s 34th precinct, which stretches from Washington Heights to Inwood.

Authorities found cocaine, marijuana and fireworks inside the towed cars, said city Department of Finance spokeswoman Jackie Gold. In one of the cars was a whiteboard with a handwritten menu of marijuana strains up for sale.

They also found stashed in some of the cars more illegal paper license plates, which have become popular among drivers looking to skirt the law since 2020, when Department of Motor Vehicle operations slowed in states across the country as a result of the pandemic.

Mayor Adams last week announced an aggressive crackdown on the phony plates, saying “ghost vehicles can’t be traced” and pose a safety threat to New Yorkers.

“We will follow the mandates of Mayor Adams and deputy mayor [Phil] Banks to work collaboratively with other agencies to keep our communities safe,” city Sheriff Anthony Miranda said in a statement.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Royster last week said police have towed at least 1,646 cars with paper plates so far in 2022 — and 34% of them were never retrieved by their owners.

Paper license plates — or plates obscured by covers — are also used by drivers to evade tolls and red light cameras in and outside the city.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority uses license plate readers to collect tolls from drivers without E-ZPasses at the agency’s nine bridges and tunnels — and plans to use similar technology to collect fees for congestion pricing, the delayed program that aims to charge motorists south of 60th St. in Manhattan and use the proceeds for mass transit improvements.

Gov. Hochul in January proposed legislation that aimed to crack down on drivers who decline to pay tolls or use phone plates or illegal covers to evade them. Her proposal did not make it through the Legislature.