After a 15-month investigation, Reading Criminal Investigator Keith W. Merkel, charged a Florida man and two Reading men with several felony counts each of washing vehicle titles and mail fraud.
Delby Diaz, 37, of North Front Street turned himself in after cooperating with investigators. He was committed to Berks County Prison in lieu of $20,000 bail following arraignment before Senior District Judge Thomas H. Xavios in Reading Central Court.
The other Reading man, Jon Julye, 33, of Lackawanna Street, is serving a state prison term for a Wyomissing robbery. He hasn’t been arraigned yet in the vehicle fraud case.
Reading police also have an arrest warrant for Jomar Reyes, 45, who has multiple addresses in Florida and New York, on those and other charges, including receiving stolen property. He remains at large.
In order to sell stolen cars, many of which are stolen in Florida, then shipped to Caribbean countries, thieves scrub off information such as the vehicle identification number and replace it with information from another vehicle, often from Canada. The process is known as cloning.
Then they pay individuals to take the phony titles to a notary, often in Pennsylvania.
This scheme unraveled when the notary at Peter Auto Sales noticed something was wrong with the titles brought in by Julye. When the notary called Julye to come back for his paperwork, the call was answered by another man who identified himself only as Church. Police later identified Church as Diaz and learned he had three vehicles registered to him, all with cloned vehicle identification numbers.
During the investigation, Merkel received a call from U.S. Homeland Security Immigration and Custom Enforcement informing him that the Jeep for which Julye held a fake title was found at the Miami Airport Cargo Center to be shipped to the Dominican Republic.
Several days later, Merkel was asked to contact Bay Harbor Islands Police Department in southern Florida because officers had stopped a 2016 Mercedes CLS 400 that Merkel had also reported as stolen. The real identification number was found and showed the vehicle to be a 2015 Mercedes stolen Nov. 5, 2017, from Fort Lauderdale and valued at $47,100.
Merkel and another member of the auto unit, interviewed Julye in the county prison. He told them a man who went by the name of Church – whom police identified as Diaz – asked him to sign paperwork for him at the notary. Diaz told him that he was transferring the vehicle for a friend in New York who had a dealership. Diaz said he had already transferred so many vehicles that he needed someone else to do the next three. Julye admitted to signing the paperwork.
When Diaz was interviewed at his residence, he said a man at a corner store asked him if he wanted to make easy money and connected him to a man in Miami, who turned out to be Reyes. Diaz said Reyes sent him vehicle titles that already had his name on them. He agreed to wire Diaz $500 for each title transfer he completed.
It took more than a year to complete the investigation because investigators needed to get search warrants to document the Western Union transfers proving Reyes wired money to Diaz to do the fraudulent title transfers.
Three of the six stolen vehicles in the case haven’t been recovered. Two, including a Corvette, are believed to have been shipped out of the country.