System Success

System Success

Special Agent Randy Belasic shuts down title fraud using NMVTIS and wins an AAMVA award 

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In 2021, Randy Belasic, who works for the Anti-Theft Unit of the Tennessee Department of Revenue as Special Agent in Charge, began an investigation based on an intelligence request from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Tennessee Highway Patrol CID agent Chris Holm responded to Belasic’s call and checked out the vehicle in question. It turned out that NICB was right to be concerned: The vehicle’s VIN was cloned.

Belasic ran the title history through NMVTIS. “When I ran the title history on it, I noticed it had a Florida title,” he says. “So, I ran that title through NMVTIS and it came back with no title history at all for that title, which is extremely unusual because any title that would have been issued for that vehicle should have been on NMVTIS. Once we contacted Florida and sent them a copy of the title, Florida replied and said it was a counterfeit title.”

Belasic says that was just the start of the investigation. “I noticed that the title had run through Sevier County in Tennessee. We looked at the title’s mailing address, which turned out to be the address for a local restaurant. That was unusual because people don’t get titles at their work address or a business address, they usually get them at their homes.” Belasic researched the names associated with that address, and “one title ended up turning into three fraudulent titles at the same address,” he says. The investigation then showed that one name on one of the three titles was also on the title for yet another vehicle, and that title was fraudulent as well.

“That led us to believe that this was pretty sophisticated in that the suspect was able to get these titles without the system being flagged,” says Belasic. “I started making a list of all these different vehicles, and I realized that this was pretty big. Then one of the agents that worked for Revenue called and said, ‘Hey, the FBI would like to talk to you.’”

Needless to say, Belasic met with the FBI and described what he had discovered about the fraudulent titles. “The FBI explained that I had actually crossed over into something they were already investigating. It just was sheer luck that it happened that way,” explains Belasic. “They asked if I could help them on the title part because initially, they had come into it as a drug case that turned into stolen vehicles.”

It turns out that the suspect had stolen vehicles in Florida and was bribing two DMV clerks in Sevier County to falsify the titles he had brought with him. Ultimately, the investigation would lead to state and federal corruption charges against the clerks, both of whom plead guilty, were fined and are serving probation.

While it took a year and a half to bring this case to a successful conclusion, Agent Belasic continues to track down other issues related to resale and salvage through NMVTIS. He says the system is “absolutely 100% important for us—we use it every day. We use it for salvage rebuilds or if somebody has replaced an airbag with a donor airbag, we require they put a VIN on it. We can run the VIN on the parts airbag to find out through NMVTIS where it was titled last, and if it was sold through an auto auction, we could trace who it was sold to and if that matches up with where the receipts claim they bought it from.”

All these efforts were instrumental in Belasic receiving the 2023 NMVTIS Law Enforcement Award. “My manager nominated me for the award, and I had no idea that I was even going to be considered because I figure everybody’s out there doing the same thing. When I heard that I’d actually gotten the award, it was overwhelming. It helps because when we put on training classes for local law enforcement, I can tell them, ‘This is what you can do with NMVTIS.’”

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