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November 10, 2021

DMV officers make arrest in alleged VIN-switching scheme

Suspect booked on multiple felony charges from undercover sting

LAS VEGAS – An 18-year-old Texas man has been arrested in Las Vegas by Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles investigators for allegedly trying to sell a stolen vehicle using a switched Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Daniel Lopez, Jr., was taken into custody October 14, 2021, as part of an undercover sting operation by the DMV Compliance Enforcement Division. Officers working undercover observed the attempted sale of a pickup truck that had been reported stolen in Texas.

According to investigators, Lopez was arrested while attempting to close a cash sale on the stolen pickup with a Las Vegas buyer, who was unaware that the truck’s VIN had been switched.

The suspect had reportedly offered the buyer a reduced price for a cash sale, said Nevada DMV Compliance Enforcement Division Chief J.D. Decker.

“The buyer in this case was unaware that when they attempt to register or title the vehicle at DMV, the stolen vehicle will be impounded and sent back to the jurisdiction from which it was stolen,” Decker said. “The victim will be out any cash they exchanged for the purchase.”

The investigation revealed that Lopez was engaging in online private party sales with Nevada residents using vehicles that had been stolen and their VINs switched to avoid detection.

Lopez was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on two counts each of Possession/Transfer of a Stolen Vehicle and Intent to Utter Fictitious Bill/Note, as well as a charge of Obtaining Money Under False Pretenses. He could face one to five years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 and restitution on each charge if convicted.

Investigators reported that Lopez already completed one stolen vehicle sale for about $18,000 in cash before he got caught.

“Unfortunately, this type of scam has become more common, and we are advising the public to be very careful when purchasing a vehicle from a private party,” Decker said. “The most sure-fire method for detecting a fraudulent vehicle sale is to bring the vehicle to a DMV inspection station, and have the vehicle checked and complete the sale there.”

The inspection service is free, Decker said, and no appointment is necessary. DMV inspectors can check for stolen vehicle reports and look for red flags like improper registration or title.

Consumers can also check for stolen vehicle status on, the National Insurance Crime Bureau web site.

The Nevada DMV Compliance Investigation Division offers the following tips for buyers in private party vehicle sales:

  • If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • A private party seller must provide a title to the vehicle. A Bill of Sale by itself is not acceptable. Look at the title carefully for poor print quality or other signs of forgery.
  • Be wary of sellers who want cash or transferred funds.
  • Do not purchase a car on an empty lot or public parking lot. Complete the sale at a DMV office, as suggested, or at the seller’s residence.
  • Check the ID of the seller and snap a photo of it if you can. Be suspicious of sellers who have an ID from one state and car registration from another.
  • Inspect the car for signs that it may be a rental or dealer inventory. Has a small sticker or a sign in the window been removed? Inspect the vehicle for flood damage as well.
  • An auto dealer must have a fixed place of business. Nevada dealers are not allowed to sell vehicles from homes, parking lots or empty corners. Dealers must also have a business license from the state they are selling in.

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Daniel Lopez
Daniel Lopez
Clark County Detention Center