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Babylon Village finds fake inspection stickers on dozens of parked vehicles

Babylon Village Code Enforcement Officer Paul Schulhaus holding

Babylon Village Code Enforcement Officer Paul Schulhaus holding one of the more than 90 counterfeit vehicle inspection stickers they have found in the last year on Sept. 10, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Nicholas Spangler

Babylon Village Code Enforcement officers have found more than 90 fake inspection stickers on vehicles this year, evidence they say points to a possible counterfeiting operation in the region.

"This is organized," said Bill Whittier, enforcement coordinator. "Somebody out there is making a lot of money."

By keeping possibly unsafe vehicles on the road, Whittier said, the fake stickers endanger pedestrians and other drivers.

"It's putting everybody in jeopardy," he said. "The wheels come off, the brakes are going to go, and somebody innocent is going to get killed."

Suffolk police made three fraudulent-sticker arrests and issued 27 false-inspection summonses in 2014 across the county. This year, they have made 10 arrests and issued 22 summonses.

Nassau County police do not track that information, a spokesman for the department said, although the state does.

"It is a problem, and it's being addressed," said Suffolk police Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon, adding that counterfeit stickers have popped up in Babylon, Brookhaven and Islip.

A fake sticker may help a driver avoid costly repairs in the near term, he said, but the consequences for those who get caught are dire.

"You're facing felony charges and you're losing your car," Fallon said. "It's a terrible idea."

Whittier said his officers have logged every fake sticker they've found and have passed the information on to Suffolk County police and the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Village officers have found about half of the fake stickers at the Babylon LIRR station, which is one of the busiest in the area and draws commuters from outside the village.

DMV spokeswoman Casey McNulty said she could not comment on an open investigation and declined to make an agency investigator available for an interview.

Village officers have encountered crudely photocopied stickers before. But over the past year, they said, they've encountered more sophisticated imitations with bar-coding, coloring and inspection numbers that simulate the real thing. Some of those numbers, which should be unique to each vehicle, are repeated.

"It's elaborate," said Officer Paul Schulhaus, who was honored by village trustees along with Officers Raymond Peterson and Alexander Weber for their work uncovering the fakes. "They have all the appropriate printing on the back of the sticker that the state would provide."

Some marks of a fake are subtle, and officers declined to identify them because they didn't want to tip off the counterfeiters. Others are obvious. These include faded coloring or blurry printing and expiration dates more than a year in the future -- the state requires annual inspections.

One recent case involved a 2004 Hyundai whose sticker indicated it didn't need to be inspected until the end of March. In fact, officers said, that inspection number had been issued to a Mercedes-Benz, and the Hyundai was due for an inspection.

Schulhaus worries that counterfeit stickers may be more common than anyone realizes. "This is just Babylon Village, a 3-square-mile area," he said.

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