Scranton garage owner among 19 charged in car title fraud scheme
Times-Tribune (Scranton, PA)
Oct. 5—The owner of a Scranton auto repair shop is among 19 people arrested in connection with a wide ranging scheme to falsify car title reports that resulted in stolen and heavily damaged vehicles being sold to unknowing consumers, the state Office of Attorney General announced today.
George Frietto, 75, of Old Forge, of George's Garage at 531 Keyser Avenue, Scranton, is accused of taking part in the scheme, which also involved 13 businesses, including four car sale dealers and one tag and title company located in Lackawanna County.
According to a press release:
Frietto worked with several car lots and PA Tag & Title in Scranton to falsify inspection reports on vehicles that had been totaled in car accidents or had been stolen. The fraud was designed to bypass rigid requirements for reconstructed titles in states such as New York and Massachusetts, or to make stolen vehicles appear legitimate for resale.
Cars that have been "totaled" in car crashes are required to undergo an enhanced safety inspection to ensure they are safe. Authorities allege Frietto falsely claimed to have inspected hundreds of vehicles.
In one instance, Frietto claimed he completed over 240 inspections during a 10-day period in December 2020. Investigators conducting surveillance on the business saw only Frietto's own vehicle enter the shop.
Part of the inspection process requires repair shops to submit photos of the vehicle with the title application. Frietto would submit stock photos of vehicles, which frequently were not the same make or model of the vehicle named in the paperwork.
"These defendants used their positions and knowledge of PennDOT requirements to defraud state and federal authorities, hide stolen vehicles and put unsuspecting drivers at risk," Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in the press release.
In addition to George's Garage and PA Title & Tag, other Lackawanna County businesses accused of taking part of the scheme are: Luci's Auto Sales, LLC, Old Forge; Best Value Auto Outlet/Oli's Auto Sales, Scranton; PBJ Motors, Taylor and EOS Auto Sales, Taylor.
Other businesses involved were Alliance Auto/Alliance Auto Sport, Inc., Exeter; ALZ Auto Sales, Mount Pocono; Aquino Auto Mall, Lehighton; Salazar Auto Sales, York; N&G Towing, Body Shop and Sales, LLC, Dover, Beltin Auto Sales, LLC, York and Newroad Motors, Lebanon.
The case was investigated by the Lackawanna County District Attorney's Office, the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Task Force and the Office of Attorney General.
"Northeastern Pennsylvania was one of the hubs of these illegal operations," Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell said in the press release. "We are indebted to the attorney general for shutting own this dangerous enterprise."
Consumers who believe they may have been a victim of the scheme should contact the insurance fraud section of the Office of Attorney General at [email protected].