DALLAS -- Mackenzie Nelson didn't do herself any favors when she showed up to talk to the cops in a stolen Porsche Cayenne.
She's the 20-year-old used car lot owner at the center of a massive nine-month fraud investigation involving the buying and selling of salvage cars that should never have been allowed on the streets.
“This particular individual would come into the county and bring paperwork for 20 titles to get the new titles and everything,” said Kaufman County Precinct 2 Constable Jason Johnson, who heads up the county's emissions task force. “That draws attention.”
He says Nelson and her accomplices would buy totaled cars and trucks at auctions. They'd falsely claim the cars had been fixed and passed inspection. Then they'd head to the tax office and get a new title.
For example, records show that one vehicle sold for about $14,000. The tax office was told the vehicle sold for $350. Taxes of only $21.88 were paid, he said.
He’s got a spread sheet of hundreds of vehicles showing a similar pattern.
Nelson was the registered owner of a Terrell used car lot in called OMG Auto. It’s housed in a run-down, vacant building that doesn’t appear to have been open for some time.
The investigation began this past January, after Nelson and others kept coming in over and over to the tax office with titles needing to be registered.
The net closed in around Nelson last Thursday when she came to be questioned by police in the stolen Porsche.
“We tried to explain the severity to the suspect in regards to the matter and how many charges that she's looking at —- just alone, out of all the vehicles —- and she basically didn't care,” Johnson said.
Nelson was released from jail the next day. She was taken back into custody on Thursday.
News 8 was there Friday as Johnson went to the Kaufman County Jail to file three more charges against Nelson. He's got seven more warrants signed that are waiting to be filed.
He wants to make sure she isn't going anywhere, and Johnson says he can easily get more warrants.
“You figure out of 542 victims, that we have 542 third-degree felonies,” he said. “It's left the victims in a bad way. Most of the cars are so damaged they will never be fixable and safe to drive on the road.”
He says authorities have gathered records, including photos, from the auction houses where the cars and trucks were bought.
There are a number of body shops that are involved in the conspiracy. He says the body shops will make minor cosmetic fixes and then claim that they have billed for thousands of dollars of work that was never done.
“They’re claiming that they’re spending thousands of dollars to get the vehicle into compliance to operate on the roadway,” Johnson said.
Johnson says the county alone has lost at least $300,000 in taxes on the fraudulent titles from early May to mid-July.
Police also have seized a Mercedes that Nelson’s boyfriend had reported stolen. The car was parked in front of the couple’s Garland home.
“We found that they just got paid for it from the insurance,” Johnson said.
Nelson is currently being held in the Kaufman County Jail on bonds in excess of $500,000. Nelson does not have a prior criminal history and is the mother of an 8-month-old child, Johnson said.
“It's going to be my intention that we send her to prison, and anybody else involved in this,” he said.
Johnson says the ring’s reach went far beyond Kaufman into at least 10 other counties, including Travis, Dallas, Harris, and Ellis. Authorities have evidence the ring was stealing cars, fraudulently titling them, and then sending them across the border.
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