'He is well-known to police': Luxury vehicle fraud linked to VIN cloning and identity theft victims
EDMONTON -- A man wanted by Edmonton Police in the fraudulent purchase of nearly $600,000 in luxury vehicles earlier this year, allegedly used identity theft along with a very good story line to convince dealerships he was a legitimate buyer.
Police say 60-year-old Philip Mackey secured a 2020 Lexus SUV from one local dealership, another from an Infiniti dealer, along with two Range Rovers and a 2019 Ford Raptor Off-Road truck.
The scheme was well done and well organized according to an expert on auto theft in Alberta.
"He is well known to police out east, well known to police in Quebec, does have some ties into the criminal element in Florida. In the U.S., Homeland Security has knowledge of this individual,” Det. Dwayne Karpo tells CTV News.
The toughest part of his job, Karpo says, isn’t going after suspects or retrieving stolen cars, trucks, boats and trailers. It’s dealing with someone who didn’t even know their identity was being used, and now their good name and credit might be ruined.
"It’s horrible for the victim. Every time we have to identify a victim in an identity fraud like this, it’s one of the worst phone calls that you’ll make," Karpo said.
The detective says getting the vehicles is just the first half of a scheme, that then sees one car cloned with another.
Karpo works in the Northern Auto Crimes Unit of ALERT and says the cloning of vehicles, or more specifically, their Vehicle Identification Numbers is becoming a big problem across Canada.
Here in Alberta, he says greater enforcement and partnerships with Service Alberta and the Alberta Motor Dealers Association saw about $4.9 million in recovered cloned vehicles in 2019.
That number nearly doubled 2018’s recovery of approximately $2.6 million in altered cars, trucks, watercraft, and trailers.
Karpo says cloning VIN codes allows the vehicles to be registered with what appears to be clean history, then they are sold for as much as a 40 per cent discount.
"You end up stealing a $100,000 truck out of Edmonton... able to get it out east, the individuals’ buying it for $50 to $60 thousand dollars."
But just like the victim of identity theft on the front end of the crime, the person purchasing at the other end could be on the hook as well, for a deal that’s too good to be true.
"This is well known throughout the organized crime communities, on how to obtain these vehicles, how to re-VIN these vehicles, get them legitimized with registries, and then sold."