CASE UPDATE: “Operation Car Wash” Crime Ring Leader Sentenced to Five to 10 Years in Prison
Organized Crime Ring Members who Fraudulently Obtained Thousands of PA License Plates Sentenced, Ordered to Collectively Pay $1.3 Million
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that three people who fraudulently obtained more than a thousand Pennsylvania license plates and used them to fuel a massive criminal enterprise across multiple states have been sentenced to jail. The organized crime ring broken up by the Attorney General’s Office was known as “Operation Car Wash.”
The ring leader, Rafael Levi, 51, of Brooklyn, New York, entered an open guilty plea in Dauphin County Common Pleas Court in March 2018 to 36 felonies. Levi was sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison today by Common Pleas Judge William T. Tully.
“The organized criminal ring led by Rafael Levi used legitimate business tactics – applying for licenses, insurance and car loans – for totally illegitimate purposes,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “From fraudulent license plates to phony car titles and other frauds, they gamed the system to rack up millions in illegal profits. Now, they’re facing justice for their crimes.”
At the time of his plea, Levi agreed to forfeit numerous luxury vehicles, including a 2015 Rolls Royce Wraith, a 2015 Ferrari, a 2007 Ferrari F430 and other cars, which were sold by the Commonwealth at an auction earlier this month to partially satisfy the restitution. The $600,000 of proceeds from the car sales will be applied to the $1.3 million restitution owed by all three defendants sentenced today.
In addition to Levi, the following defendants were sentenced today:
- Victor Lalo, two to four years in jail plus $56,000 in fines and penalties
- Edward Leyberman, 10 to 20 months in jail plus $53,500 in fines and penalties
The following 13 businesses were also sentenced today. Each is sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay a civil penalty of $15,000 to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority and a $10,000 fine:
- Aflac Auto Sales, Inc.
- ALS Auto Transport, LLC
- Chase Auto Sales, LLC
- Jay Sam Auto Sales, LLC
- LR Auto Sales Transport, LLC
- Oscar & Pepper Auto Sales, LLC
- West Fall Auto Sales, Inc.
- Winston Auto Transport, Inc.
- Wyatt Motoring, LLC
- Prestige AAA Auto Sales, Inc.
- VR Auto Sales, Inc.
- Hobs Auto Transport
- HH Motoring Inc.
By illegally renting out Pennsylvania license plates in New York City and other locations, the crime ring reaped enormous profits and allowed those who used the fraudulent plates to avoid paying more than $1 million in parking fines and EZ Pass tolls across several states.
The charges, filed in April 2017, followed an investigation by the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section and a statewide investigative grand jury. This investigation began after the Attorney General’s Office received information from the Pennsylvania State Police. More details about the investigation can be found here.
“Law enforcement cooperation and the effective use of the grand jury shut Operation Car Wash down,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We thank the Pennsylvania State Police, the office of New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and every agency that helped with this complex case.”
As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation, PennDOT has implemented reforms to prevent similar frauds in the future. One example: when used car dealers apply for a bulk number of license plates, PennDOT now conducts a financial analysis, using sales data from the dealerships, to determine whether the number of plates applied for is supported by the data.
This case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Robert LaBar and Deputy Attorney General Kristyne Crist of the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section.
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