ADOT looks to cut down on dealer plate fraud, unauthorized sales

Contributed Photo/Courtesy ADOT

Will verify operations of used vehicle dealers to protect consumers

Contributed Article/Courtesy ADOT

PHOENIX – Arizona Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General detectives and analysts have reviewed approximately 3,000 used and wholesale dealer license holders in an effort to discover potential activity such as dealers that have very little to no recent vehicle sales or have sales they are not licensed to make. 

ADOT detectives are contacting license holders to ensure they are not misusing dealer plates or selling vehicles outside of the limits of their licenses, an illegal practice known as curb stoning. 

State law allows an individual to sell no more than six vehicles in twelve consecutive months without a dealer’s license. Dealers who attempt to sell vehicles in excess of what is permitted on their license are also in violation of the law. 

“We are asking used and wholesale dealers to please contact us if they receive a letter from the ADOT Office of Inspector General,” said Lt. James Warriner. “This is an effort to verify that they still want and intend to use their dealer license for the purpose of selling vehicles.” 

ADOT’s Office of Inspector General heads up the Arizona Curbstone Enforcement Joint Task Force that focuses on curb stoning, which includes identifying unlicensed automobile dealers and used and wholesale dealer license holders operating outside their approved dealer license.

“Curb stoning vehicles has been a huge problem in Arizona and throughout the United States,” Warriner said. “Our task force has helped to cut down on this practice through a few large cases.”

ADOT, the Arizona Department of Revenue, and the Arizona Independent Automobile Dealers Association comprise the Arizona Curbstone Enforcement Joint Task Force, established by state law to ferret out operations illegally selling vehicles. 

Little to no activity on a dealer license can be a sign for possible fraudulent behavior including misuse of dealer license plates. These are special plates that, by law, can only be used on certain dealer-owned vehicles.

In past cases where dealers were investigated for different types of fraud, ADOT detectives have found dealer owners misusing their assigned dealer plates by putting them on their personal vehicles and the vehicles of their close family members. This way, they can avoid paying the registration and vehicle license tax on those vehicles.

Dealer license plates are governed by state law. Any changes to dealer license plates and how they operate will need to come through the state legislature.

In 2014, ADOT introduced a redesigned, bright blue dealer license plate with white lettering that shows “Vehicle Dealer” on the bottom in accordance with House Bill 2372 passed during the 2013 Arizona legislative session. The redesign helps the plate stand out from the previous dealer plate design of the desert background, which is common on standard Arizona license plates.

“If a dealer license holder has found that they no longer want or need their license, they are always welcome to contact ADOT anytime to arrange to have their license canceled and all materials, including dealer license plates, turned in,” added Warriner. “We are here to help protect the citizens of Arizona by ensuring they have the protections afforded them when purchasing a vehicle.”

Detectives with ADOT’s Office of Inspector General investigate fraud involving vehicle title and registration, licensed and unlicensed dealers, identity theft, and support investigations by state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement.