Attorney General Becerra Announces Arrests, Charges Against 10 Individuals in Southern California Vehicle Title Washing Scheme

Friday, May 17, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced the arrest of ten individuals for allegedly using fraudulent information on credit applications to purchase vehicles from various car dealerships located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernardino Counties. After purchasing vehicles using false or stolen identities, the defendants would then file fraudulent documents with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to remove lienholders and obtain a “clean title” to the vehicles. The vehicles were then sold on Craigslist or to used car dealers. The complaint was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“No Californian should have to fear their identity being stolen for the benefit of a fraudulent scheme,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Let’s make something clear – title washing is fraud and it will not be tolerated by my office. Individuals who take advantage of vulnerable Californians and honest businesses will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Auto theft in Southern California and in California in general, continues to be a problem for the California Highway Patrol and for the general public,” said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Warren Stanley. “The California Highway Patrol has partnered with local law enforcement agencies to form task forces to combat auto theft statewide. As a result of a lengthy investigation, the CHP in conjunction with allied agencies, was able to affect numerous arrests in Southern California areas.”

The complaint charges the defendants with 35 felony counts of grand theft, grand theft of an automobile, receiving stolen property, commercial burglary, and identity theft. It is alleged that the defendants used the personal identity of innocent individuals to purchase the vehicles. They also allegedly filed fraudulent lien releases with the Department of Motor Vehicles, on behalf of finance companies, stating the loans were paid off. This effectively cleared the finance companies as legal owners, and allowed the defendants to sell the vehicles to unsuspecting victims. In many instances, innocent individuals were contacted by banks and finance companies when they failed to make payments on loans that had been fraudulently opened in their name. This resulted in many victims having to go through an arduous process to clear their names with banks, finance companies and credit reporting agencies.  The arrests are the result of an investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

A copy of the complaint is attached to the electronic version of this release.

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PDF icon Chelsea Indictment Redacted.pdf2.61 MB