Four Long Island residents accused of selling temporary Texas license plates in Suffolk County have been arrested and charged with second-degree criminal possession of a false instrument, Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said.
The arrests stem from an investigation by Sini’s office and Suffolk police after officials noticed an increased prevalence of the tags in Suffolk County, officials said.
"Anyone who fell victim to this scam should be aware that these plates are not valid and you should take immediate steps to get your vehicle properly insured and registered," Sini said Thursday in a news release. "This is a matter of both keeping our roads safe and protecting residents from paying into these scams."
Omar A. Awan, 29, and his brother, Usman A. Awan, 22, both of Melville, were charged for their alleged participation in the scam, prosecutors said. The other defendants are Julio A. Borges Jr., 26, of Bellport and William Dunphy, 19, of Glen Cove.
Attorney Michael Brown of Central Islip, who represents the Awan brothers, said his clients did not have prior criminal records and were trying to assist a friend who could not register a vehicle in New York State because that person could not get an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Brown called the brothers "upstanding members of the community."
All four defendants were released on their own recognizance. The Awan brothers were arraigned Feb. 17 and are due back in court on March 9.
Borges was arraigned on Feb. 16 and is due back in court on March 8. His attorney, Michael Elbert of Melville, declined to comment on the charges.
Dunphy, represented by the Legal Aid Society, was arraigned Wednesday and is due back in court March 18. Legal Aid did not return a call for comment.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to 2 ⅓ to seven years in prison.
According to prosecutors, the defendants advertised temporary tags on Craigslist, Facebook and other social media sites. Buyers would provide the defendants with vehicle identification numbers as well as the make, model and year of the vehicle in exchange for a temporary tag, which is valid for 60 days.
Undercover investigators who purchased the temporary Texas plates from the defendants paid $100 to $150 for each tag, prosecutors said.
The temporary license plates can be generated online by licensed automobile dealers in Texas through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles’ eTag website. It is illegal for the temporary tags to be issued for any vehicle not sold in Texas, and for the tags to be sold or transferred.
Sini said the investigation is ongoing and anyone with information should contact the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Financial Investigations & Money Laundering Bureau by calling 631-853-4232 or by email to InfoDA@suffolkcountyny.gov.