‘Operation Doubletake Take’ nets three arrests
Three people have been arrested and one is sought in a scheme officials say involved the sale of “cloned vehicles.”
The arrests occurred Friday, following a year-long investigation into an alleged fraud operation that passed off stolen or fraudulently obtained vehicles with illegally manufactured titles.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit, in conjunction with the Cape Coral Police Department, began to investigate a local criminal organization, named by Lee County Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit as “Operation Double Take” more than a year ago. The probe required multiple undercover operations, database searches and countless hours of visual and digital surveillance, officials said.
The operation reached its peak Wednesday when the Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit was granted four federal indictments for, officials say, key figures in the organization. All four reside in Lee County. Three are in custody while one remains at large. Taken into custody are:
* Fernando Cordova (d.o.b. 12/31/1973)
* Aimee Montalvo (d.o.b. 04/17/1985)
* David Montalvo (d.o.b. 12/31/1954)
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office did not release specific charges per individual.
Officials say the four suspects were involved in the sale of “cloned” vehicles. The organization crimes involved include conspiracy of possessing and selling vehicles with altered Vehicle Identification numbers, grand theft, dealing in stolen property, title fraud, insurance fraud and fraud by uttering and forging fraudulent documents, officials said.
A “cloned” vehicle starts as either stolen from an innocent victim or one reported stolen by someone who is willing to participate in the crime by giving up their vehicle to the criminal organization, officials said.
In the “owner give up” scenario, the original keys are surrendered to the conspirators. Their motivation is to eliminate outstanding debt and/or make money. This constitutes insurance fraud, officials said.
The vehicle becomes “cloned” when the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) are changed to match an identical vehicle being sold in another state. The VIN information can be obtained via the World Wide Web, auctions or for sale by owner offers. The perpetrators use the VIN number from the legitimate vehicle and produce fictitious documents including fraudulent out-of-state titles to match their stolen or “owner give up” vehicle. This enables the criminal to submit documentation to obtain what looks like “good title” for the bogus vehicle. The criminal enterprise takes advantage of limited information sharing between state motor vehicle departments. Currently, fewer than 15 states in the U.S. have databases which compare VIN numbers.
Once “cloned”, the vehicle represents a true vehicle – again, it looks like a legitimate vehicle. The criminal can now sell the vehicle to an individual or dealership. Most vehicles are sold for a substantially lower cost than fair market value, however, the profit range in “Operation Double Take” varied from $10,000 dollars to $40,000 dollars per cloned vehicle, officials said.
On Friday, Dec. 19, detectives from the Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit conducted an undercover operation in an effort to make physical arrests on the individuals taken into custody. With the assistance of members of the Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Warrants Unit, Criminal Investigations Division, Robbery Unit, Technical Investigations and Electronic Surveillance Unit, Anti Crime Unit, Gang Unit and the U.S. Marshal’s Office, three of the four subjects were taken into custody near the intersection of Daniels Parkway and Treeline Avenue. One subject has not been located at this time.
Source: Lee County Sheriff’s Office