By Lucas Wood
HAZLETON, Pa. -- On August 16th of this year, charges of Corrupt Organisations, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activity, Forgery, Washing Vehicle Titles, Theft and related offences were filed at District Justice ZOLA’s office by members of the Hazleton Police Department and the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Task Force against Winston TORRES (Bronx, NY), Jose BALBINO CANBERRA (Hazleton, PA), Joshua PERALTA (Hazleton, PA) and Luis SANTOS FONSEFA (Bridgeport, PA).
These charges are for their roles in a criminal enterprise engaged in the business of, “title washing” or “lien washing”.
Title washing is the process through which a vehicle’s title is altered to conceal information that would normally be included, such as outstanding liens.
This can be accomplished by physically altering printed documents, creating counterfeit documents or reapplying for a title without disclosing the vehicle’s prior history.
Typically members of this organization purchase, by financing, new high-end vehicles using stolen identities and counterfeit identification documents, such as driver’s licenses.
These members obtain loans in the names of unwitting victims and take delivery of these vehicles.
Once the organization is in possession of these vehicles counterfeit titles that reflect no lien holder information are produced.
These titles are then taken to various notaries throughout Hazleton where an application for a new Pennsylvania title is completed by a PA resident.
Upon receiving a valid Pennsylvania title for these vehicles they are taken to the Port of Miami where they are exported to the Dominican Republic for profit.
Since payments are not made on the loans obtained for these vehicles the identity theft victims’ credit suffers and the banks lose their collateral.
The co-conspirators in this case collectively sought to defraud several financial institutions of $263,267.20 in collateral.
In the execution of this scheme the conspirators submitted four (4) counterfeit/fraudulent/altered titles to PennDOT and its agents.
Lastly the conspirators sough to profit from their illegal activities by exporting a 2013 Honda Accord, a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, a 2016 Dodge Charger and a 2016 Ranger Rover to the Dominican Republic for either resale or personal ownership.
Anyone with information on this case or any title washing scheme is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Anthony WHITE of the Hazleton Police Department at 570-459-4940.