A Lewiston man has been charged with printing hundreds — possibly thousands — of counterfeit inspection stickers, many of which might have ended up in Kennebec County.
Percy Hutchins, 31, has been charged with aggravated forgery after police discovered a printing operation at his home on Sabattus Road, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
“Troopers believe Hutchins has been printing the bogus stickers since 2010 and may have produced hundreds and possibly thousands of counterfeit stickers,” McCausland said. “Those stickers were distributed throughout central Maine, where they sold for $100 or more.”
Dan Brooks, of Brooks Boys Auto Sales on Capitol Street in Augusta, said he has never seen evidence of a fake inspection sticker at his shop, but he has heard of other counterfeit operations uncovered by police. Brooks said it is more common for owners of cars that fail inspection to mention plans to go to another garage to get a sticker.
“The vast majority of garages are on the up and up,” Brooks said. “Usually when you run into an issue, it’s more of an oversight.”
In the last week, state police troopers in Augusta-based Troop D charged five people who were driving vehicles with fake inspection stickers. Those charges include the following:
â€¢ On May 5, a 27-year-old woman was charged with displaying a fictitious inspection sticker during a stop in Litchfield after police noticed the sticker had been printed illegally and affixed to the windshield.
â€¢ On May 7, a 42-year-old Augusta woman was charged with displaying a fictitious inspection sticker during a stop on Water Street in Randolph after a trooper noticed that the inspection sticker on the vehicle had been printed illegally and placed on the vehicle’s windshield. The driver said her son had it put on the vehicle. That same day, 39-year-old James Goff, of Sidney, was arrested on a warrant and charged with displaying a fictitious inspection sticker and operating after suspension after a stop on Interstate 295 in Gardiner. The driver told police he was unaware the sticker was fake.
â€¢ On Thursday, a 24-year-old man was charged with displaying a fictitious inspection sticker during a stop in Litchfield. The sticker had been printed illegally and affixed to the windshield.
â€¢ On Sunday, a 43-year-old man was charged with displaying a fictitious inspection sticker during a stop in Gardiner. The sticker had been printed illegally and affixed to the windshield.
State police Lt. Aaron Hayden said there is no way of knowing whether the stickers are connected to Hutchins’ operation, but they could be. Hayden said Troop D did assist with the ongoing investigation after evidence surfaced that suggested some of the stickers had made their way to the Augusta area.
“We have been getting hit hard with these all over the place,” Hayden said.
McCausland said it has become more difficult to spot the high-quality fake stickers.
“Troopers continue to find them in increasing numbers, many times on vehicles that pose serious safety risks to the motoring public,” McCausland said.
Troopers seized 27 counterfeit inspection stickers in addition to 10 others seized earlier in the investigation, McCausland said. Police also seized glass-encased proofs, computers and a printer.
Brooks said state inspectors and police are usually more interested in dealerships applying fake stickers to sell cars that cannot pass an inspection. In February, Glenn Geiser, owner of Bangor-based My Maine Ride, pleaded no contest to 28 counts of using counterfeit inspection stickers and paid a $7,000 fine. The Maine Office of the Attorney General alleged Geiser targeted low-income buyers, then pressured them to buy substandard vehicles. Brooks said investigators over the past couple of years have used his garage to inspect nearly a dozen vehicles sold by Geiser.
“The biggest thing is they don’t want dealerships or garages with stickers they shouldn’t have,” Brooks said.
Brooks said there will always be people willing to risk getting caught, because stickers are a commodity. Brooks said the illegal stickers undermine the program aimed at enhancing public safety.
“People in the market for (the stickers) have vehicles that probably shouldn’t be on the road,” Brooks said. “They’re looking to get another year out of it any way they can.”
Craig Crosby — 621-5642 | email@example.com | Twitter: @CraigCrosby4