If you’re like most folks, you’ve never heard of mechanic’s liens.
But mechanic’s liens were in the news last month in Indianapolis, Indiana as federal prosecutors released details of a racket there that used mechanic’s liens to steal cars from banks and others who had ownership interest in the vehicles.
Liens are often placed against cars when a person owes back taxes or child support, but those liens and any bank liens from finance companies are erased when a mechanic’s lien is placed on a car.
Prosecutors say that a business called Mechanic’s Liens Plus has been operating the scam in Indianapolis and they have charged the owner of the business and his daughter, along with a Bureau of Motor Vehicles insider who helped with the scheme.
Apparently, people would pay $1,000 to Mechanic’s Liens Plus to file fake paperwork to enforce a mechanic’s lien on cars, enabling the drivers to escape making payments that they owed on the cars.
One woman told the ABC TV affiliate in Indianapolis that the scheme cost her family a classic 1965 Corvette that their late father had owned. A dishonest mechanic, she says, used Mechanic’s Liens Plus to take the car away from her family after they had paid him $13,000 to fix it.
Prosecutors say they may be filing action to recover some of the 272 vehicles that were apparently issued fraudulent new titles in the scam.
“These are not victimless crimes. Far from it,” says U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett. “These individuals were responsible for operating their own personal BMV on the streets of Indianapolis.”
The BMV employee is accused of providing the information about the legitimate lien-holders through her access to the BMV computer systems that allowed for hundreds of vehicles to be taken away from those banks and others with ownership interest.
Hogsett told the TV station that the scam also caused legitimate liens to simply go away for such things as paying child support or taxes that are owed to the State of Indiana. He said others used the business to avoid the other liens that would have required paying child support or taxes.
Even if the drivers who hired the business are not charged with a crime, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Myers, the lead prosecutor on the case, said a forfeiture action could be filed in civil court since the cars were kept by the drivers through a fraudulent enterprise.