HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The owners of a family-run company were following the law when they registered their truck only to find out someone who broke the law had control of the vehicle.
Just like that, Moore Cuts Florida Tree Service was left without access to a key part of their business while they tried to figure out what happened.
Jennifer Moore found the first aggravating clue when she went online to register it.
“I was registering the truck and the message was you don’t have a vehicle attached to this tag,” Moore said. “I called and gave them the vin number and all the information, and they said that’s not your vehicle.”
She was shocked.
“I said, what?”
The Moores were forced to take the truck off the road and shut down their business as they tried to fix the problem.
They found out the ownership was transferred with a forged signature on paperwork to obtain a duplicate title for the truck.
“No,” Matthew Moore said when asked if the forgery looked anything like his signature. “Not one bit. It blows my mind that someone could get away with that.”
The New Port Richey police incident report for the ongoing fraud investigation reveals the loophole that allowed someone to steal the title.
“The forms and transactions do not require any type of licensing or notarization,” a DMV clerk told police.
There are two suspects in the case, according to the incident report. Neither one has been charged at this time.
Gaining control of a title could allow the thief to take out a loan on the vehicle. They could also steal it, with the fraudulent title as proof they seemingly own the truck.
“They would already have it sold, potentially out of state, before we could even figure it out,” Jennifer Moore said. “And it would be long gone.”
Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano said DMV clerks are trained on what to look for to guard against fraud.
“But it still happens far too often at tax collectors’ offices across the state,” Fasano said. “This is something the public needs to be aware of.”
“[The DMV clerks] said that it is probably more widespread due to a loophole in the DMV system that you don’t need any notarization,” Jennifer Moore said.
“I can’t believe it got to this point,” her husband added. “I remember if you were to do something like this, there has to be a picture ID and no doubt that the person signing the paperwork is who they say they are.”
His wife said lawmakers need to make changes.
“We need to change the statutes and rules that govern DMV so that this doesn’t happen to anybody and make sure that everyone is protected in the future,” she said.