The family of a teenager killed in a crash involving a truck with a fraudulent Texas paper license tag has a plea for state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott: Give law enforcement more tools to eliminate the massive market for illegal paper labels.
Terrin Solbrig died in October 2020, his life ending in a cloud of dust along a country road in Caldwell County, central Texas.
“He was the sweetest boy you’ve ever met,” said Terrin’s father, Stewart Solbrig.
While riding dirt bikes with a group at a friend’s ranch, the group ventured down the road kicking up dust which left Terrin hidden from a pickup truck driving in the middle of the road .
“It’s very difficult to live with the fact that you don’t have your child,” said Tawny Solbrig, Terrin’s mother.
That sadness and frustration only increased, the Solbrigs said, when they learned the pickup truck that hit their son had a fraudulent Texas paper tag.
It is one of hundreds of thousands of tags issued by car dealerships suspected of using the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle system to print tags and sell them for black market profits.
NBC 5 investigation first exposed the incredible scale of the problem in a series of reports that began in November.
The Solbrigs think the truck that hit Terrin wouldn’t have been on the road without that fraudulent tag.
“That’s not what caused the crash, but it actually started the process of that truck driving down that road,” Tawny said.
NBC 5 investigation obtained the tag number from the accident report and discovered that the tag was issued by Texas Motor Company, an authorized car dealership that was investigated by the FBI for allegedly printing hundreds of thousands of fraudulent labels.
The FBI says Texas Motor Company owner Emmanuel Padilla Reyes, also known as Christian Hernandez Bonilla, is currently a fugitive facing federal wire fraud charges accused of selling Texas labels. across the United States.
The truck that hit Terrin Solbrig was not allowed to have a paper tag.
State records show he hadn’t received a state inspection in years. Under Texas law, dealers can only issue temporary buyer’s tags to cars inspected within the last 180 days. And they can only issue buyer tags to vehicles they actually sell.
But as NBC 5 investigation reported, repeatedly, that small resellers were able to use their reseller license to access the state’s electronic tag system, create tags, often using fake names and addresses, and then resell them for profit on the black market.
The Solbrigs want it to end.
“I want [them] to know that Terrin has a name,” said Tawny Solbrig NBC 5 investigation.
“He didn’t just die by the side of this road for no reason. If anything good could come out of all of this, maybe we could save someone else’s family from going through the same tragedy we went through,” Stewart Solbrig said in an interview.
The Solbrigs want Abbott and the state legislature to give police more funding to tackle the problem.
In 2017, Abbott withdrew funding for special police units that investigated paper tag and vehicle inspection fraud when he vetoed a clean air bill that helped pay for those units. in the big cities.
The governor said at the time that he opposed what he called a “cash for clunkers” type program in the bill.
But the veto also shut down special law enforcement units like the one in Dallas County that used to pull tag vendors off the streets.
“I think it was very irresponsible of the governor to do that. And I think if he had to go through what we had to go through, he never would have done that,” Tawny Solbrig said.
“We would ask the governor to please reconsider…we need to eliminate the problem,” Stewart Solbrig said.
Like NBC 5 investigation North Texas Police Departments reported Sunday that they need more help dealing with serious crimes involving fraudulent tags.
From high-speed chases to drug trafficking and identity theft investigations, police say crime suspects often use fraudulent tags to hide.
Rogue car dealerships selling tags often enter false names and addresses into the state’s licensing tag system, investigators said. This effectively creates what police call “ghost cars” that are hard to track and help bad guys evade police detection.
“These vehicles shouldn’t be on the road,” Stewart said.
The Solbrigs believe that special police units are essential for sharing intelligence between law enforcement groups and training more police to recognize fraudulent tags.
In their son’s case, they say the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) didn’t even ticket the owner of the truck for having a fraudulent tag.
The Solbrigs filed a complaint with the DPS.
In a statement, a DPS spokesperson said NBC 5 investigation the agency cannot comment on the matter because the soldier who handled the accident, “…is currently under internal investigation by the Office of Inspector General for his handling of this incident.”
At a recent TxDMV meeting, Tawny Solbrig told the agency’s board that the DMV failed her family by allowing Texas Motor Company to print hundreds of thousands of tags before the agency revokes the company’s dealer license for alleged fraud.
“This accident would never have happened if the driver had not obtained illegal paper tags through your failing system,” Tawny said.
She said only the FBI and federal prosecutors helped bring justice.
“That dealer got charged because of those people there,” Tawny Solbrig said, waving to law enforcement officials at the meeting. “Not because of y’all. Y’all failed the system,” Solbrig added, referencing the DMV.
Now the Solbrigs are on a mission to make sure the governor and state lawmakers give the police more funds to find the fraudsters.
“Terrin loved helping others. It was all about that, is all about service, and we’re committed. We are very determined to ensure that this does not happen all the time and that it is necessary [a] change,” Tawny said.
During months, NBC 5 investigation contacted Abbott’s office to ask about this issue. His staff repeatedly declined our interview requests.
Instead, they sent NBC 5 investigation the same written statement repeatedly which says in part, “Governor Abbott has worked with the Legislature and TxDMV to effectively resolve the issue…”
The statement said the governor worked with the DMV to pass legislation allowing the agency to close dealers suspected of fraud more quickly and limit the number of labels dealers can print.
The statement goes on to say “…we continue to work with (the DMV) and the Legislature to review other potential legislative changes needed and build on this progress.”
After NBC 5’s investigation revealed the scale of the beacon fraud problem in November, showing how it became a $200 million black market business, the chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee pledged to hold hearings soon to begin solving the problem before it even begins. of the next legislative session in January.
- February 13, 2022 – More funding needed to crack down on criminals using false paper Tags: Police
- February 10, 2022 – Police report drop in fraudulent labels, but Warn Crooks is adapting
- February 9, 2022 – Texas DMV shuts down six more dealers suspected of selling paper license tags
- February 7, 2022 – TxDMV director resigns amid paper tag mess
- January 27, 2022 – TxDMV Takes Urgent Action to Stop Scammers Selling Paper Labels
- January 21, 2022 – Dallas police operation targets fraudulent paper tags
- Jan 17, 2022 – Recording shows police tipped off TxDMV about paper tag security breach years ago
- December 16, 2021 – DMV Panel Recommends Fingerprinting of Some Dealerships to Slow Paper Tag Fraud
- December 14, 2021 – Texas House Transportation president pledges to end paper tag fraud
- December 6, 2021 – Texas DMV boss deflects blame for paper tag debacle
- November 23, 2021 – Illegal Paper Tags Cost Texas Taxpayers and Toll Roads Millions
- November 10, 2021 – Suspected paper tag peddler shuts down Tuesday, reopens Wednesday: Investigators
- November 8, 2021 – How Texas Paper Tags Became a $200 Million Criminal Enterprise: NBC 5 Investigates