former highway patrol officer pleads guilty to concealing a felony
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former Missouri State Highway Patrol officer pleaded guilty in federal court today to concealing the alteration of Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) by an auto repair business. Today’s plea is part of a federal investigation into a $245,000 conspiracy to sell salvaged vehicles with altered VINs.
Dusty Berry, 27, formerly of Carrollton, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to misprision of a felony. By pleading guilty today, Berry admitted that he was aware a Carrollton auto repair business was committing felony federal offenses by removing VINs from damaged auto component parts and placing the VINs on parts that had not been properly inspected.
Berry, who was a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper at the time, purchased a red 2008 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck in September 2009 from Potter Collision at 1201 S. Main, Carrollton. This was the second pickup truck Berry purchased from Potter Collision. In 2008, Berry had purchased a black 2006 Chevrolet Silverado that had been totaled in a roll-over accident. When Berry bought these pick-up trucks, he was aware that they were previously wrecked vehicles that Brice Potter, owner of Potter Collision, repaired and resold. In fact, Potter hired Berry part-time, paying him $11 per hour, for two months between September 2008 and November 2008.
According to today’s plea agreement, new parts that were ordered to rebuild pickup trucks at Potter Collision were delivered without VINs, which the original manufactured parts would have. For example, the new cab and one door installed on Berry’s 2008 Silverado didn’t have any of the original factory parts’ VIN stickers and plates. As a consequence, these vehicles, to be lawfully registered, required a special vehicle inspection and notice to the Department of Revenue that the owner was seeking to convert a “salvage” title into a “prior salvage” or “reconstructed motor vehicle” title.
According to today’s plea agreement, Potter Collision avoided these steps. Instead, Brice Potter removed the 2008 pick-up truck VINs and reattached them to the new parts. Potter also covered the “salvage” portion of the title when he went to retitle the repaired vehicle, and intentionally misled the Department of Revenue to believe the original title was not for a salvage truck. This enabled Potter to get a clear Missouri title for the vehicle, rather than the “prior salvage” or “reconstructed motor vehicle” title that was appropriate.
Berry had allowed Potter to transfer the VIN plates and stickers in much the same way with the first truck he purchased from Potter in 2008. Berry wrecked the 2006 Chevy Silverado, which was never resold; however, Berry did file an insurance claim on the truck, which was paid as if the truck had a valid clear Missouri title.
Berry admitted that, as a law enforcement officer, he knew exactly what Potter was doing in repairing the truck, and knew such conduct was illegal. Nonetheless, he not only failed to dissuade Potter from this illegality, he failed to report or arrest Potter for his illegal actions.
Under federal statutes, Berry is subject to a sentence of up to three years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $205,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Roseann A. Ketchmark. It was investigated by the FBI and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.