Used dealer plates being sold online for big bucks
BATON ROUGE - Investigators say there's evidence that one or more used car dealers are abusing dealer plates. The plates have been found for sale online with large price tags.
There's no formal criminal investigation, but dealer plates that are normally sold to dealers for $15 a piece have recently been found on cars out of state.
Dealer plates are special license plates issued by the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles to licensed dealers and used by car dealers, employees of the dealer, or a customer test-driving a car. The Office of Motor Vehicles issues eight different dealer plates, four for new and four for used. The types are regular, motorcycle, handicap and personalized. Gold plates are for new car dealers and white plates are for used car dealers. When a car sells, the plate is removed from the vehicles and put on another one at the same business. If it's not, the driver of the car with a dealer plate can dodge payment of sales tax, title, registration, and license fees.
Commissioner Karen St. Germain says she's not aware of any issues related to new car dealer plates, but there is evidence of issues with used car dealers plates.
"We have never had issues like this before so we can limit the plates but we choose not to believe they're bad before you find out that they're bad," St. Germain said.
The Offfice of Motor Vehicles says alarming numbers have recently been discovered about used dealer plates. There are 10,568 active used dealer plates and 2,984 used car dealers with active dealer plates. About 100 of those used car dealers have 10 plates to their business and 19 of them have more than 20 plates. One of them at the top of the list with the most plates is a dealer in Baton Rouge.
Omega Auto, INC has 51 used dealer plates to its name. The business has a listed address at 8700 Florida Blvd., but it has a registered agent with a Miami, FL address. Wednesday, 2 On Your Side went looking for that business owner. A person at the listed address said even though there is an Omega Auto, INC sign on the side of the building, the person never showed for work. The number listed for the business isn't working either.
To obtain a dealer plate, licensed dealers must come to the physical Office of Motor Vehicles in Baton Rouge or mail in their application. St. Germain says a representative for Omega Auto, INC came to the office with an application in hand on Jan. 16 and paid for 20 plates. On Jan. 28, they returned and paid for 30 more. The third time, they were stopped.
"Within a couple of weeks he was back for another 25 because he said he lost them when he was at auction," St. Germain said.
Currently, there is no limit as to how many dealer plates someone can purchase so long as they have a license and an application. But significant abuse has been found with investigators identifying Louisiana dealer plates on cars in New York and New Jersey. The used dealer plates are being sold online for as high as $2,000 a piece on sites like Craigslist.
Sources say this isn't the first time there has been evidence of dealer plate abuse. Three used car dealers were shut down last year and none of them had any record of car sales. The information is moving St. Germain to rethink the current system.
St. Germain says she would like to see the dealer plates match up with the VIN of the vehicle so there's no question about the vehicle the plate is on and what dealer it goes to. She's currently exploring new legislation.
So far, the OMV has been unable to get in touch with anyone at Omega Auto, INC, which currently has a suspended license for lapsed insurance. The OMV says it must wait a 30-day period before it can cancel all the used dealer plates Omega Auto, INC has obtained. That 30-day period is up on Oct. 3, 2019.