GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids police say they are finding a lot more drivers using counterfeit temporary paper license plates, and warn that the penalty for using the fake tags is harsh.
“You can actually get more time for buying one of these than if you’re passed a counterfeit $100 bill,” Grand Rapids Police Department Sgt. Stan Liss said.
Legitimate temporary paper plates are issued by car dealers when a new vehicle is purchased and there isn’t another plate to transfer. The paper plate is taped in the back window of the car until the regular metal plate arrives from the state.
Some people have been making up counterfeit temporary plates rather than pay the state for a legitimate registration. That, Liss said, constitutes felony fraud against the State of Michigan.
GRPD compared the same six-month periods to provide some perspective on the problem. From July 1, 2013 to Jan. 20, 2014, they didn’t have a single case of a fraudulent temporary plate. Between July 1, 2014 and Jan. 20, 2015, they found 31.
“When you stop three or four cars in a day and they all have the same serial-number license plate, it becomes pretty apparent to the officers,” Liss said.
He showed 24 Hour News 8 one of the fake paper plates the department seized.
“The dealership on it is out of service,” Liss pointed out. “This is filled out in two different-colored inks. It looks like it was written in almost crayon.”
Getting caught with an out-of-date or expired plate will get you in some trouble, but it’s much more serious to be caught with a counterfeit.
“If you get caught with a bad plate, you get a fine and maybe some points on your license. If we catch you with one of these (fake plates), you may go to prison for a couple of years,” said.
First-offense felony fraud is punishable by two years in prison. A third offense can land someone in prison for up to 15 years. In one of GRPD’s cases, Liss said, the person caught with the fake plate would have faced a less serious penalty for actually stealing a car.
Additionally, cars bearing fake tags could be seized because they are being used in the commission of a felony.
GRPD has also busted two people who were allegedly making and selling fake tags. Officers are now looking for their customers.
“The people that are buying them know that they are no good,” Liss said. “There is no other government document that you can purchase from a guy in a parking lot for 20 bucks.”
The issue of fraudulent temporary tags is not confined to Grand Rapids. In January, the Secretary of State put new requirements on dealers.
“We need to keep a log of who we issue it to, the number that’s on it and the individual that’s issuing it,” said Stacey Arnold of Boondox Motorsports in Grand Rapids.
The Secretary of State’s Office told 24 Hour News 8 that the new law was not created in response to the frauds, but it can provide information to police that should make enforcement easier.