Stolen license plate leads to bogus bills for Pine Island man

Reporter: Chris Cifatte
Published: Updated:

If you ever have your license plate stolen, beware: You might get a bunch of bills in the mail.

Thieves use stolen license plates to go through tolls. And stopping bills isn’t easy.

Dick Grimes’ license plate was stolen on Sept. 22, 2022 after it fell off his boat trailer.

He started getting bills.

Someone was crossing the Midpoint Bridge with it. In between losing his plate and dealing with the consequences, Ian hit.

Midpoint Bridge. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Grimes lives on Pine Island. His house was spared, but he helped his neighbors while also dealing with his business. It was full-time work.

He lost track of the lost plate problem for some time.

“The first couple of bills that I got, I just paid,” Grimes said. “I mean, because I didn’t have time to go down to the motor vehicle department or even figure out what it was about because I work in construction.”

After paying 19 bogus tolls, he tried to fix it and get the plate taken out of his name.

“Then I tried to deal with it. I actually talked to the toll people and they were just not helpful at all,” Grimes said. “They told me to go to the motor vehicle department … They actually had an affidavit on their website. So I got that notarized, filled it out, sent it, sent it to the Leeway people.”

“That wasn’t any good.”

But it did get better.

Dick Grimes. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Leeway waived the outstanding charges and flagged the plate, which should stop more charges.

But, that still doesn’t get his name off the registration.

Lee County said, when a license plate is stolen, you need to contact the Tax Collector’s Office, report the plate stolen and get Leeway a copy of the police report.

Grimes didn’t have a police report at first but has since gotten one from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

WINK News went with him to the state Motor Vehicle Office to see if we could the issue resolved.

After a half hour of wait, some help came along.

“I think we might have made some headway,” Grimes said.

The rep behind the counter said Grimes’ new plate to replace the old one also replaces his current active plate in their database.

But that doesn’t guarantee he wouldn’t get a bill if someone used the old one at a toll other than Leeway.

“I guess I have to deal with Sunpass,” he said.

The bottom line: In Florida, license plates stay with the owner as long as they are in use.

So if you can’t return it because someone stole it, make sure you report it. Take the police report to the Motor Vehicle Office soon.

If it’s lost, go to motor vehicles in person.

And pay attention to your mail to see if anyone is using it for free rides.

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