Temp Tag Tuesday: Ron DeSantis Now Has a Fake License Plate (Courtesy of Lib’ral Ol’ Me!)

Now Ron DeSantis has a temp tag in his name, too.
Now Ron DeSantis has a temp tag in his name, too.

This is the fifth edition of Streetsblog’s new feature, “Temp Tag Tuesday,” which explores how insanely easy it is to buy illegal temporary license plates and how little local and out-of-state officials are doing to stop the scourge. To read prior episodes, click here. And, as promised, “Temp Tag Tuesday” now has a theme song, too. Click here to listen.

There’s some shady stuff going on in the Sunshine State — now I have a fake temporary tag from Florida.

As Streetsblog revealed in a soon-to-be-Pulitzer-nominated series by Jesse Coburn, dealers — some real, some fake — in multiple states sell temporary tags to car owners who have either lost their license or want to evade speed cameras. Remember: the city Department of Transportation told Coburn that its cameras can’t read even legitimate temporary tags, and other city officials have bemoaned how often cars with temp tags are involved in crimes.

Yet fraudulently issued temp tags are so easy to get! To obtain a new one every week, I simply do a quick search on Craigslist or Facebook and then start texting the numbers on the ads.

This week, I went to Mark Zuckerberg’s soul-destroying site, clicked here, and sent a text. The site’s operator switched me to WhatsApp, but then asked the same list of questions all shady dealers ask, including the vehicle identification number of the car (I don’t own one) and my name and address.

I’ve been doing this for five weeks now and I have no idea why people engaged in fraud pretend that everything is on the up and up — especially since the VIN and the name and address I provide is entirely made up. And it’s a pretense because issuing someone a temporary tag without selling that person a car is illegal, even in Florida.

No matter — within minutes, I had my new Florida temp tag — made out with the wrong vehicle identification number and issued in the name of the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, and the state’s governor’s mansion as the address.

Here you go, governor.
Here you go, governor.

The “dealer” name on the plate — Floroda Auto Reserve, yes, including the misspelling — doesn’t exist in Florida business records. And the state’s motor vehicle officials said neither that name, nor the dealer number on the front of the plate, matched anything in state records.

It’s not a valid plate, I was told. I had a series of follow-up questions, but my friends in Tallahassee ghosted me. Even Gov. DeSantis declined to comment.

That was unfortunate because Florida seems to have some weird ways of doing business. For example, sales between one person and another — “casual sales” — are legal (if the seller collects the sales tax, of course, ha ha ha!). It’s unclear, then, how the buyer is supposed to get his temp tag if neither the seller nor the buyer are dealers.

The real Florida logo from the state's license plates (left) compared to the cheeky version by the online registration system (right).
The real Florida logo from the state’s license plates (left) compared to the cheeky version by the online registration system (right).

Like most states, Florida has set up an online registration system for dealers to issue temps. But there’s a cheekiness about it; the logo on one of Florida’s sites electronic registration system websites — Florida ETR — reconfigures the state’s official logo so that it looks like male genitalia (see photo, right).

It wasn’t surprising that Florida officials declined to answer my questions, but it was a bit depressing; over the course of this short series, I’ve noticed that state authorities in New Jersey, Maryland and now Florida, plus several insurance companies that have been similarly duped, don’t really seem to care about cracking down on dealers who are either misusing the state’s systems, taking advantage of lax rules and regulations, or simply committing fraud. The state’s law-enforcement community doesn’t seem to care as long as the dealers are not licensed or registered, as was the case of my dealer in Floroda (again, I typed that the way the dealer typed it).

No one, beyond the Florida registration website, appears to have the balls to take this on.