Sanbornton town clerk halts illegal overseas vehicle sales
May 11, 2011SANBORNTON — Police in Sanbornton recently uncovered suspicious car registration activity when the Town Clerk/Tax Collector and her deputy noticed a man renting property in the town was at their office frequently to register several expensive new luxury vehicles.
Town Clerk/Tax Collector Jane Goss said she became suspicious after a period of time when she noticed the gentleman had no liens on several vehicles totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"The first time I saw there was no lien holder on the vehicle, I thought, 'What a lucky guy, to by a car like that for cash,' but after he came in a couple more times and none of the vehicles had lien holders, I knew something was up," she said.
Goss attends conventions for town clerks and tax collectors held annually around New Hampshire, where speakers from many state agencies help educate them on situations the clerks may be confronted with in their jobs. One of those speakers last year was a member of law enforcement who discussed car sales operations involving vehicles which are registered in New Hampshire, but then shipped overseas.
"He warned us to be aware of people, especially from out of state, registering multiple vehicles they paid cash for. But, he said that type of activity usually takes place in towns along the borders, so I didn't think a lot of it at the time, since we're in the central part of the state," Goss said.
People are allowed to live in one state for part of a year, yet register a vehicle in New Hampshire, but that vehicle is to be garaged primarily within state lines. This winter, however, things didn't add up right with a resident who was renting a location in Sanbornton but still held an out-of-state license.
Goss said the individual seemed to have an unending supply of cash to purchase and register expensive cars, including Porsches, Mercedes and Audis.
"I did my homework and gathered all the information I had, then gave it to the police department," said Goss.
Sanbornton Police Chief Stephen Hankard said New Hampshire is a prime location for such activity due to the lack of a sales tax and no requirements for insurance for the vehicles, often found in other states.
Besides the violation of several civil laws, purchasing multiple vehicles which then leave the state could be indicative of other criminal activity. After a lengthy but cautious investigation by the Sanbornton Police Department, the case was then passed on to federal agencies for further analysis, and remains part of an ongoing investigation on the federal level.
"The (federal agents) become involved because they want to know where the money is coming from and where the vehicles are going. That's where the real crime could come in," Hankard said.
While little can be said at this time about the specific circumstances of the case, Hankard said he was very pleased by the alert actions of Goss and assistant deputy town clerk Marla Davis, who first brought the matter to his attention. Their attentiveness to the unusual transactions and the way in which they gathered all the necessary information to pass on to federal investigators could go a long way toward curbing criminal activity of this sort.
"Jane was able to give us a lot of really good information, and the people with Homeland Security were really happy with her work," Hankard said.
Goss said the town clerk and tax collectors conferences are valuable network sharing resources.
"You never know what you're going to learn. Last year's speaker helped me to put two and two together with this incident. These conferences and the information we take away from them are so important to us town clerks and tax collectors, and this is one great example why," said Goss.