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Ringleader Arraigned on Conspiracy Charges in a $1.2 Million Southern California Car Theft Ring
LOS ANGELES -- Martin Vasquez, 43, one of the ringleaders of a million-dollar Southern California car theft ring that employed phony DMV documents and stolen driver’s license numbers, was arraigned today in Los Angeles Superior Court.
All three men named in a complaint filed last week by the state Department of Justice have now been taken into custody and arraigned on multiple counts of theft and conspiracy in connection with the use of fraudulent DMV documents to clear the titles of two dozen vehicles so they could be sold at auction or to individuals. The estimated value of the stolen cars was $1.2 million.
Luis Marroquin, 64, of Huntington Park was arraigned Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Marroquin’s bail was set at $700,000. He is being held in Los Angeles County Jail.
Marroquin and Kirsio Cruz, 46, of Norco were arrested Thursday after an investigation by the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Cruz was released Friday on $150,000 bail after arraignment.
Vasquez was arrested late Tuesday night at a coffee shop in Southgate. His bail was set at $355,000.
Vasquez and Marroquin ran a smog shop and a fraudulent registration service called Latinos Smog in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, according to documents filed in the case. To advance their scheme, they used fraudulent California driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, notary stamps and CHP and DMV rubber stamps to “wash” vehicles of their lien holders.
Their use of stolen driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers put innocent, and unwitting, citizens at risk of further identity theft abuses and loss of credit.
Here’s an example of how the scheme worked: In October 2007, a phony DMV release of lien holder form was filed, removing Toyota Motor Credit as the lien holder for a 2005 Toyota Camry registered to an Inglewood man. That “washed” a lien of $27,261.16 on the car, unbeknownst to Toyota Credit, which tried to repossess the car and then wrote off the vehicle when it could not be located. It was later recovered by Oakland police.
In another instance, a 2005 BMW 645i was purchased using a stolen driver’s license and a stolen Social Security number belonging to innocent citizens. The company that financed the purchase then had its lien removed through a forged document filed with DMV, a process that allowed the car to be sold at auction by the car thieves.
A silver metal briefcase and other containers found in a Ford Taurus parked at Latinos Smog, according to a CHP inventory, contained at least 125 stamps, including stamps for Hawthorne, Pasadena and several other DMV locations; notary public #48012714 stamp; a CHP stamp; a stamp for Toyota Motor Credit; stamps for various other auto financing agencies; and stamps for auto auctions in Fontana, Riverside and elsewhere in Southern California.
The investigation into the car theft ring continues.
A copy of the complaint is attached.