Car shop

A scheme involving an illegal Schenectady car shop and broken fake Texas paper tags

SCHENECTADY — An Amsterdam man who ran an unlicensed auto repair shop in Schenectady that made money distributing fake Texas paper tags has pleaded guilty to a criminal scheme to defraud, according to the district attorney’s office. Schenectady County.

Earl Armstrong’s Tuesday admission before County Judge Matthew Sypniewski asks Armstrong to plead guilty to robbery, a felony. For both offences, he will receive a sentence of 1 ½ to 3 years, which will run concurrently.

The accused, who will be convicted of two crimes, will also have to pay an unknown amount of restitution.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 19. He had faced a 15-count indictment.

The illicit activity investigation was launched nearly two years ago when DA investigators spotted Armstrong driving a blue Ford F-150 truck with a temporary Texas paper license plate — who have appeared in large numbers in the region lately – during a surveillance operation. in Schenectady.

Investigators soon discovered that Armstrong’s driver’s license had been revoked and the truck he was driving had been reported stolen in Maryland. The vehicle was then seized and turned over to the on-site car dealership.

Investigators also learned that in Texas, car dealerships have access to an electronic license plate system, known as the “e-TAG” system, with few safeguards in place, which allows plates to be created. registration cards for use in very limited situations. .

Additionally, they discovered that the e-TAG system was not linked to the national electronic database of criminal justice information often used by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the Department of State Motor Vehicles, which allegedly identified the vehicle as stolen.

The prevalence of Texas paper tags has led to a multi-agency regional sting that has resulted in the confiscation of numerous stolen vehicles, firearms and narcotics, as well as the discovery of drivers operating vehicles with driving privileges revoked or suspended.

Law enforcement officials learned that Armstrong, 41, was selling Texas license plates for hundreds of dollars at his unlicensed vehicle repair shop in the State and Hulett streets area of ​​Hamilton Hill .

They raided the illegal business and seized numerous fake Texas license plates and laminating material that the defendant used to affix the fake plates to customers’ vehicles.

District Attorney Robert Carney, in a statement, attributed the charge to the curiosity of one of his investigators, James McCrum.

“It turns out that Mr. Armstrong played a small local role in a scheme in which federal authorities shot down a circle of individuals in Texas and New York responsible for issuing nearly 600,000 fraudulent temporary plates,” Carney said. “These fake plates could be used, like this one, to conceal a stolen car, or to be placed on vehicles used to commit other crimes and avoid detection.”

The case was investigated by the DA’s Office Financial Crimes Unit and is being prosecuted by ADA William Lemon.