JDM car importers arrested after Florida revokes 400 illegal titles

About 400 foreign-market vehicles are having their titles revoked in Florida as part of an ongoing investigation targeting fraudulent car importers. A screenshot of a document shared on social media began circulating earlier this week, raising concerns in the importing community about a mass revocation. It turns out that the vast majority of illegal cars were imported by two companies with the same owners.

We were alerted to the investigation on Tuesday, and a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (HSMV) confirmed its legitimacy to The reader Friday. They provided several documents describing the charges against two individuals involved in the illegal importation network.

On March 7, Andres Diaz and Nicole Chiong were arrested in connection with the fraudulent importation of 348 vehicles between November 2014 and October 2020. Diaz and Chiong are listed as executives of J-Spec Garage and Soho Alliance. These are noted as the two offending organizations in the FHP investigation report, along with Soho Imports, which is the trading name of the Soho Alliance company.

The charges against Diaz and Chiong allege the duo committed fraud on 348 vehicle title applications. This means that they may have used a fictitious name or address, or made a false statement in the application, as well as the bill of sale associated with the vehicle. The two arrest reports list 40 counts of tampering with a bill of sale, 40 counts of using counterfeit instruments and more than 50 counts of impersonation.

On July 27, 2021, Florida’s HSMV ordered an emergency suspension of Soho Imports’ dealership license on the grounds that it posed “an immediate grave danger to the public welfare.” More specifically, the danger invoked is the consumer’s financial loss as a result of the dealer’s alleged misconduct. In this case, Soho customers own at least 348 vehicles with revoked titles.

According to a letter from the Florida Highway Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security has added all identified vehicles to a contraband list, meaning they cannot be registered anywhere in the United States, period. The complaint, along with the full list of vehicles with revoked titles, can be read here. The document does not identify each vehicle model, although The reader selected some notable imports based on the VINs listed in the revocation notice.

  • Honda Accord Euro R
  • Honda Accord Wagon
  • Honda Civic (various generations and versions, including SiR-II and Type R)
  • Honda CR-V
  • HondaFit
  • Honda Inspire
  • Honda Integra (DC2)
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Honda S2000
  • Honda Tournament
  • Mazda RX-7 (FD)
  • Mitsubishi Air Trek
  • Mitsubishi Delica Espace Gear
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VRS
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX Wagon GT
  • Mitsubishi Pajero Mini
  • Nissan 350z
  • top nissan
  • Nissan Pao
  • Nissan Stagea
  • Nissan 180SX
  • Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
  • Nissan Silvia (S15)
  • Nissan Skyline (R32, R33, R34)
  • Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32, R33, R34)
  • Porsche 911 (996)
  • Subaru Forester STI
  • Subaru Impreza (GC8)
  • Subaru WRX
  • Subaru WRX STI
  • Truck Suzuki Carry DD51 Kei
  • Toyota Height
  • Toyota Aristo
  • Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205
  • Toyota Century
  • Toyota Chaser
  • Toyota Corolla TE56
  • Toyota Crown
  • Toyota Hi-Ace
  • Toyota Hilux Surf
  • Toyota Mark II
  • Toyota MR-2
  • Toyota Supra (MK4)
  • Toyota Verossa

Searching vehicles by VIN gives a list of unique cars sold for different amounts. An R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R even sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2017 for $68,200.

We also spoke with Coleman Sachs, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s import and certification division, who now works as a private consultant for NHTSA’s import compliance. The specific documents provided by Florida’s HSMV were not sufficient for Sachs to comment on the reason for Florida’s removal; however, he noted that a set of sample documents from 2013 — before the dates listed in Florida’s revocation letter — may have been incorrectly completed by Soho, a claim that has already been made against the store by others. Sachs then noted that some of the vehicles listed would be “highly unsuitable” for import under current NHTSA regulations and FMVSS standards.

Additionally, neither J-Spec Garage nor Soho Alliance are listed as currently registered importers, nor are they listed as importers with suspended or revoked privileges, according to NHTSA. It would not be possible to import these vehicles for commercial purposes without being a registered importer or without having the vehicle imported by a registered importer before obtaining the title.

A Florida HSMV spokesperson said owners of the affected vehicles were dispatched as of last week, meaning nearly 400 people are now left with unregisterable clipboards on wheels. Whether or not the vehicles end up being run over is another story, and HSMV says it will release more information after the Florida Highway Patrol completes its investigation.

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