A Terre Haute businessman and a former reserve sheriff's deputy face criminal charges in connection with a vehicle title scheme investigated by the Indiana State Police.
Richard B. Turriff, 62, is to appear Thursday in Vigo Superior Court 1 to face allegations of corrupt business influence, forgery and counterfeiting.
Co-defendant James L. Passwater II, 44, of Terre Haute, faces the same charges as a result of the ISP investigation, which began in 2015. Passwater's initial hearing also is set for 9 a.m. Thursday in Division 1 court.
According to probable cause affidavits, the title department of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles contacted police because Turriff's business, R & D Imports, was applying for about 50,000 vehicle titles per year, but "no one has ever seen any cars on the lot" located at 3075 S. Timpenny St.
Passwater was identified as the person signing the forms. Investigators recognized the name of Passwater as a former reserve deputy in Clay County and a current reserve deputy in Vermillion County. However, he has not been a reserve deputy in Vermillion County since 2015, when the investigation began.
Master Trooper Troy Cobb contacted Passwater to see if he was physically inspecting each vehicle for which a vehicle identification number, or a VIN check, the affidavit said.
Passwater told ISP he had signed a few incompleted VIN check forms and gave them to Turriff to finish filling out, according to the affidavit.
Passwater reportedly told Cobb that "Turriff does the title processing for people selling cars out of Canada."
Trooper Cobb estimated 50,000 VIN checks as equating to about 137 every day for a year. Cobb said the lot on Timpenny Street is not large enough to store that many cars. In fact, a check of the lot showed a small building and only a few cars and a few school buses.
Cobb received warrants to get handwriting samples from Turriff, Passwater and others allegedly involved in signing Passwater's name to title paperwork.
Those writing samples were submitted to the ISP Forensic Documents Section for analysis. An analysis report issued in 2017 indicated "multiple writers" signed Passwater's name to the paperwork.
A check of the Indiana Secretary of State's business services website shows R & D Imports dissolved in February 2018.
Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.