NBC 5 Investigates has learned Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) will direct lawmakers to tackle the problem of fraudulent Texas temporary license plates in hearings this year, even before the start of the next legislative session in 2023.
A spokesperson for Phelan’s office tells NBC 5 the speaker will include the paper tag issue in his “interim charges” to the House, designating it as a key issue so lawmakers can begin discussing solutions now and move more swiftly to pass legislation to address the problem when they reconvene next year.
“This is going to be a priority for Texas House members”, said Cassi Pollock, a spokesperson for the Speaker’s office.
In December, the chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee, Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), told NBC 5 he would ask Phelan to make the paper tag an interim charge after an NBC 5 investigation revealed the massive scale of the fraud. By one law enforcement estimate at least 1.2 million black market temporary tags were sold last year alone.
Authorities say many of those tags are sold by unscrupulous car dealers who have obtained state licenses that give them access to the state’s electronic tag system. That allows them to create tags, register them to false names and addresses and sell them on the black market. Those tags are sometimes used to create “ghost cars”, difficult for police to trace, and even used to conceal other crimes, according to police and federal agents who have investigated the sale of fraudulent tags. NBC 5 Investigates recently showed how even drug cartels and human traffickers are using fraudulent paper tags to move drugs and people and attempt to evade law enforcement along the U.S. – Mexico border.
The NBC 5 reports have revealed that the Texas DMV does not fingerprint car dealer license applicants or meet them in person. Investigators say that lack of thorough vetting has allowed people with bad intentions to gain dealer licenses and then misuse the state system for illegal profits.
In the wake of NBC 5’s reporting, the DMV’s board of directors has vowed to implement more intensive background checks and other security measures.
Meanwhile Friday, authorities in El Paso announced the arrest of a licensed car dealer accused of selling several Texas paper tags to help people avoid taxes and registration fees.
Mike Nami is charged with several counts of tampering with government records
El Paso County tax investigators said they partnered with the Texas DMV to investigate the case.
Dealers are not allowed to sell temporary tags. They can only put them on vehicles they actually sell.
NBC 5 Investigates reached out to Nami. A man who answered the phone at his dealership said the case was, “an issue of identity – and we are working on it”.
The man then hung up the phone.
- Feb. 28, 2022 – License to Smuggle: Drug Cartels and Human Smugglers Use Paper Texas Tags to Evade
- Feb. 15, 2022 – Fort Worth Police Announce Special Operation Targeting Paper Tags
- Feb. 14, 2022 — Crash Victim’s Parents Want More Cops to Police Paper Tag Fraud
- Feb. 13, 2022 – More Funding Need to Fight Criminals Using Bogus Paper Tags: Police
- Feb. 10, 2022 – Police Report Drop in Fraudulent Tags But Warn Crooks Are Adapting
- Feb. 9, 2022 – Texas DMV Shuts Down Six More Dealers Suspected of Selling Paper License Tags
- Feb. 7, 2022 – TxDMV Director Resigns Amidst Paper Tag Mess
- Jan. 27, 2022 – TxDMV Takes Emergency Action to Keep Crooks From Selling Paper Tags
- Jan. 21, 2022 – Dallas Police Operation Targets Fraudulent Paper Tags
- Jan. 17, 2022 – Recording Shows Police Warned TxDMV of Paper Tag Security Flaw Years Ago
- Dec. 16, 2021 – DMV Committee Recommends Fingerprinting Some Dealers to Slow Paper Tag Fraud
- Dec. 14, 2021 – Texas House Transportation Chair Vows to Stop Paper Tag Fraud
- Dec. 6, 2021 – Texas DMV Boss Deflects Blame for Paper Tag Debacle
- Nov. 23, 2021 – Illegal Paper Tags Costing Texas Taxpayers and Toll Roads Millions
- Nov. 10, 2021 – Suspected Paper Tag Peddler Shut Down Tuesday, Reopens Wednesday: Investigators
- Nov. 8, 2021 – How Texas Paper Tags Became a $200M Criminal Enterprise: NBC 5 Investigates