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‘Used Car King of New York’ sentenced for nationwide scheme

Criminals pocketed more than $200 million as they sold hundreds of thousands of fake Texas paper vehicle tags

Houston—A 52-year-old man who advertised himself as the “Used Car King of New York” has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of conspiring to commit wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Octavian Ocasio pleaded guilty Oct. 18, 2022, to conspiring with others residing in the Southern District of Texas to buy and sell thousands of fraudulent Texas-issued temporary buyer tags for cars outside of Texas without a legitimate vehicle purchase.

U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. has now ordered Ocasio to serve 53 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard how Ocasio and others engaged in a widespread fraud to use fictitious car dealerships to generate and sell Texas temporary buyer tags without actually selling cars, all while also making false promises and assurances that it was legal.

“If it seems like there are more cars driving around the streets of Houston with temporary paper plates, you would be correct, in part thanks to the hundreds of thousands fake paper plates Ocasio sold to Texas drivers,” said Hamdani.

“Ocasio’s fake plates would come back to a car that was never sold or sold to drivers who never should have been issued plates in the first place. Because of this, Texas recently changed the way paper plates are issued, and because of his decision to produce and sell fake plates, Ocasio will now spend several years inside of a real jail cell.”

In handing down the sentence, the court noted that Ocasio committed the offense utilizing mass marketing and sophisticated means. The court also ordered Ocasio to pay restitution to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles in the amount of $324,600. 

“It’s not every day that one of our cases leads to changes in the law, so I’m extremely proud of our FBI Houston agents and our partners who maneuvered through the complexities and scale of this investigation in the name of justice,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge David Martinez of the FBI. “Ocasio was one of several who, for too-long, allowed thousands of drivers across the country to ride around with fraudulent paper license plates — all just to save a few dollars.

“Now, he’ll have to park himself inside a federal prison to pay for his crimes. Ocasio and his co-conspirators pocketed more than $200 million from their illegal activity which exploited not just the state of Texas but allowed unsafe vehicles on our streets with uninsured and unlicensed drivers at the wheel.”

Ocasio and co-conspirators used the internet to buy and sell the fraudulent state-issued buyer tags and exchange proceeds from the illegal tag sales.

At the time of his plea, Ocasio acknowledged he and his co-conspirators communicated through accounts on Gmail, Instagram and Facebook to receive and deliver fraudulent buyer tags to purchasers all over the United States, including New York, Florida and Washington, D.C. 

He also admitted he and his co-conspirators advertised the state-issued buyer tags on social media platforms and received and shared fraud proceeds via electronic payment services such as Cash App and Zelle.

Emmanuel Padilla Reyes — aka Christian Hernandez Bonilla or Noel Rivera — is also a fugitive in this case. The F.B.I. is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to his arrest.

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