March 22, 2018
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced his Public Integrity Unit has filed over 100 charges of Uttering and Publishing, a 14-year felony, against seven current and former police officers as a result of an investigation by the FBI Detroit-Area Public Corruption Task Force into improper salvage vehicle inspections where it is alleged the officers falsified Secretary of State documents for inspections intended to detect stolen vehicles and parts.
These specially certified officers were placed in positions of trust with the responsibility to ensure vehicles they inspected and approved for motor vehicle titles were not stolen. Instead they falsified and signed documents published to the Secretary of State for new motor vehicle titles.
“These public officials cut corners and fraudulently submitted paperwork taking advantage of the trust and responsibility they are given as police officers,” said Schuette. “It is important to hold these individuals accountable as there are many others who complete this job by the rules every single day. I want to thank the FBI’s Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force and the Secretary of States Office for their hard work on this investigation.”
“We’re proud that our investigators were able to work with the Attorney General’s Office to bring these dishonest individuals to justice,” Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said. “This is why we started the Office of Investigative Affairs, which has been fighting fraud for seven years. These people give a bad name to the vast majority of honest, hard-working police officers who fight for us every day. No Michiganian should be cheated out of their hard-earned dollars.”
“The unlawful conduct committed by these few officers should not tarnish the badges or reputations of the vast majority of Michigan’s law enforcement professionals. The FBI and our law enforcement partners remain committed to rooting out public corruption at all levels,” said Jeffery E. Peterson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI.
It is believed all 7 defendants will be arraigned on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
The seven current and former officers involved in this case were charged following an investigation by the FBI Detroit-Area Public Corruption Task Force and the Michigan State Police. The defendants were all specially trained and certified to conduct salvage vehicle inspections. It is alleged that large percentage of the salvage vehicle inspections they had conducted were done so improperly, not checking LEIN to safeguard against retitling vehicles rebuilt with stolen parts or retitling stolen vehicles.
A salvage title is issued for a vehicle that has become a "distressed vehicle”, for example when a car is totaled by an insurance company. A vehicle with a salvage title cannot be plated or used on public roads even after it is rebuilt until it is recertified by a specially trained police officer and retitled. To do this the officer must be authorized by a police department. All defendants in the case were trained and properly certified.
An officer when conducting a salvage vehicle inspections officers must check the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) to ensure stolen parts are not on it or the car itself is not stolen. In this case each of the defendants conducted hundreds, in some instances thousands, of salvage vehicle inspections. The authorities conducted spot checks to ensure the officers had conducted the LEIN checks. It is alleged that these spot check revealed that the officers had falsely stated they had conducted the searches required by law when they had not. The insurance industry also maintains a database of vehicles reported stolen within the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). In each felony allegation the officers did not even check with NICB.
The MSP and the Secretary of State will work together to ensure all vehicles involved in this case have a proper salvage vehicle inspection. This may involve directly contacting the registered owners of vehicles improperly inspected to arrange for a new inspection. The process of identifying affected vehicles is ongoing.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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