Michigan State Trooper Charged With Embezzlement in Apparent Title Washing Scheme
In Michigan, you can’t get a car with a salvage title on the road legally without first having it inspected by a state certified salvage vehicle inspector, typically a specially trained police officer. The officer inspects the car for safety and checks the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) to make sure the VIN hasn’t been reported as stolen. The car’s owner pays a $100 cash fee to be forwarded to the state government, the inspector signs off on the forms, and the state issues a new, clean title.
That is unless Seth Swanson was your inspector, allegedly.
Former Michigan State Police trooper, Swanson, 31 of Royal Oak, has been charged by the state attorney general with felony counts of embezzlement and forgery for pocketing over $170,000 in fees in what appears, based on the large number of cars involved, to have been an organized title washing scheme.
From August 2014 till the end of 2015, the state attorney general alleges Swanson kept the fees from 1,701 inspections he certified. He’s also alleged to have falsely certified that he checked to make sure the cars were not listed as stolen on LEIN. Following an investigation, Michigan State Police suspended Swanson without pay last February. He resigned from the force earlier last week.
A state trooper since 2009, Swanson was regarded as a hero for his actions resuscitating and saving a 10-year-old child involved in a multiple fatality chain reaction crash on I-75 caused by a snow storm in 2013.
Prosecutors have not released many details, but — reading between the lines — this may have involved an organized car theft ring. The number of titles involved works out to 100 cars a month and it seems to me such a large number of cars means Swanson was either working with organized criminals or was known as the go-to guy for independent car thieves.
Swanson has also only been charged with a single count of embezzlement by a public official and a single count of uttering and publishing (i.e. forgery). Each individual fee he stole and each certification he signed are separately chargeable felonies, so he could have been and still be charged with over 3,400 crimes.
The story broke after the Michigan attorney general issued a press release, not because Swanson showed up on a police blotter or court docket. That seems unusual to me. Combine that with the fact that he’s only been charged with two crimes, he’s waived his preliminary hearing and no further court dates are set makes me believe a plea bargain is in the works and Swanson will likely testify against others involved in the scheme.
TTAC has asked the Attorney General’s office if they expect other indictments, but we didn’t receive a response by the time of publication.
The state police are working with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office to identify the vehicles affected, contact the owners to arrange for new inspections, ensure they are safe to drive and have not been stolen.
If Swanson indeed worked with professional car thieves, I presume not all the registered owners will readily cooperate.
Scoutdude on Nov 01, 2016
I have a hard time believing that this was done with locally stolen cars, unless the state's system is that messed up, or if he was putting a different VIN on the paper work and then getting lucky that the car with that VIN was not registered in his state. The computer should spit out that there is a duplicate or a new title issued on a car that is shown as stolen and not recovered. In general though the guy is an idiot. The way to do this and not get caught is to charge the person the $100 for the paper work that goes to the state as normal and $100 for a "special handling fee" for doctoring the paper work to hide that it is stolen.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Tane94 are both eligible for federal tax credits? That's the big $7,500 question.
- Jkross22 Toenail says what?
- MaintenanceCosts This sounds like old-school GM drama!
- SCE to AUX It's not really a total re-badge since some of the body parts are unique, and the interiors are quite different.As I mentioned the other day, the Tonale has a terrible name and a dim future.As for the Alfa team - guess what, this is how corporate ownership works. You are part of Stellantis partly because you're not viable as a standalone business, and then your overlords decide what's shared among the products.By the way: That Uconnect infotainment system found in Alfas was originally a Chrysler product... you're welcome.
- Kurkosdr Someone should tell the Alfa Romeo people that they are a badge owned by a French company now.The main reason PSA bought FiatChrysler is that PSA has the technology to enter the luxury market but customers don't want a French luxury car for psychological/mindshare reasons. FiatChrysler has the opposite problem: they have lots of still-respected brands but not always the technology to make good cars. Not to say that if FCA has a good platform, it won't be used in a PSA car.In other words, if those Alfa Romeo buds think that they will remain a silo with their own bespoke platforms and exclusive sheet metal, they are in for a shock. This is just the start.