St. Louis Man Accused of Manufacturing Fake Vehicle Temporary Tags
ST. LOUIS – A man from St. Louis was arrested Thursday on an indictment that accuses him of manufacturing and selling fake temporary vehicle license tags.
Mario C. Cooks, 34, was indicted in U.S. District Court in St. Louis Wednesday on six felony counts of fraudulent transfer of an authentication feature. The indictment says Cooks used a fake watermark and seal of the Missouri Department of Revenue on temporary motor vehicle license tags produced between June 28 and December 6.
In a court-approved search Thursday morning of Cooks’ home in the 5300 block of Claxton Avenue, the United States Secret Service, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, St. Charles Police Department and the Missouri Department of Revenue seized computer equipment, counterfeit temporary motor vehicle documents and counterfeit motor vehicle titles.
In an affidavit filed to obtain the search warrant, an agent of the U.S. Secret Service said the investigation began when police in St. Charles learned that Cooks was offering fraudulent temporary motor vehicle tags as well as a fraudulent license plate that appeared to have been issued by the State of Missouri to a licensed car dealership. An undercover police officer then purchased a series of fraudulent temporary motor vehicle tags and automobile insurance cards from Cooks, the affidavit says.
“The people using these temporary tags are not just those trying to avoid paying their taxes. Some are using them to conceal their possession of stolen vehicles or to thwart their identification while committing crimes,” said St. Charles Police Chief Ray Juengst. “This is a great example of collaboration between agencies that will have a positive impact throughout the metro area.”
“This arrest disrupted a sophisticated criminal enterprise designed to defraud the State of Missouri,” said Thomas Landry, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s St. Louis Field Office. “I commend the exceptional work of our partners and emphasize our agency’s ongoing commitment to combatting fraud at every level.”
Cook’s federal charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case was investigated by the St. Charles Police Department, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service and the Missouri Department of Revenue. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Berry is prosecuting the case.