The following post is by guest-author the Foolish Reporter.

From all reports, the father and son duo of Antonio Lopez Miranda and Antonio Miranda, were hard workers, owning two car-related businesses in the greater Seattle area. They operated T&C Auto Sales and T&C Auto Wrecking, and, from all indications, are completely legitimate businessmen. As their name belies, the gentlemen are of Hispanic descent and are fluent in Spanish. Among the services they offered their customers, was to deal with the headache-inducing paperwork here in Washington State when it comes to private sales of used cars between people. Perhaps the most onerous issues in dealing with these kinds of transactions is an excise sales tax (the rate varies depending on the value of the used vehicle, but, for instance, say a $5,000 car is being sold/transferred, the tax would approximately be $400) the state collects for people privately conducting business.

Hey, we’ve had Democrats in charge of this state since 1985, don’t blame me.

Now, one of the workarounds that people have discovered here in WA to avoid that ridiculous tax is to “gift” vehicles. That is, to say the vehicle is being given as a gift, i.e., no sale is taking place, so that onerous  sales tax does not apply. I’ve known many people who have done this (myself included, perhaps.) So, with this knowledge in hand, the Miranda’s took advantage of this workaround, and did it to mostly help non-English speaking members of the local Hispanic community.

From a press conference given by law enforcement officials regarding this case:

“The owners of T&C are Hispanic, and they speak fluent Spanish,” Grossnickle said in a press conference May 23. “The vast majority of these transactions were conducted with Hispanic (immigrants). Basically, they would come to (T&C), and bring the paperwork to them. The employees at (T&C) would request their information and the title information and then tell the people…(the necessary paperwork would) get back to them. As far as they were aware, they’d get their registration, tabs and plates. Everything appeared legitimate.Several people we talked to had no clue and in no way had ever given their consent to have the car gifted.”

For all intents and purposes, no one was being harmed by the Miranda’s actions. The people coming to them got what they wanted, and all involved were able to avoid paying the onerous sales excise tax. But, of course, the State sees itself as the victim. Hence the fact that these two men, who were serving their community and making a profit while doing so, now face criminal charges.

But the State wasn’t done in this particular case. Their investigators were only tipped off to this mutually beneficial arrangement because of a licensing sub-agent that was processing many of the Miranda’s gifted vehicles. (Brief explanation : Licensing sub-agencies are essentially private businesses that can act as a Department of Licensing/Motor Vehicles agent.) The investigators noticed that there was an unusual amount of gifted vehicles coming from this particular sub-agent, and began to sniff around.

Here again, it was people privately making decisions to better their financial situation. The particular sub-agent in question had an incentivizing program in place for its workers. The more transfers/sales they processed, the more money they made. So now, along with the Miranda’s, two middle-aged women are now caught up in the State’s criminal punishment apparatus:

….two employees of the White Center DOL Licensing Subagent center in Seattle, 49-year-old Karen Simmons and 54-year-old Lou Ann Myer of Tukwila, are alleged to have allowed the processing of these fraudulent documents in their work at the licensing business….

“The subagents were not taking money from the father/son (team),” he said. “Initially, we thought that was what was occurring. According to the subagent employees, they were just taking bonuses from their employer. In an indirect way…they were conducting fraud for monetary gain, on both sides.”

These two women also harmed absolutely no one. They found a way to put more money in their pockets in this economically depressed time, and, again, from the Miranda’s to them, NO ONE WAS HARMED. People made money and saved money.

All in all, I was reminded of Jeffrey Tucker’s essay called “The Speakeasy Economy.” (Hence the photo) In it, he illustrates how there’s an awful lot of evidence that points out people, on a daily basis, ignore the State’s ridiculous regulatory apparatus and conduct business among themselves, peacefully and cooperatively. The story related above was just that. The Miranda’s helped the lower-income Hispanic community navigate  (and sidestep) the State’s regulatory apparatus when it came to private sales of vehicles between people. Simmons and Myer looked the other way because, again, who did it hurt?

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It seems more and more that normal, every day people become criminalized, simply for peacefully and voluntarily interacting with each other through commerce.

Ain’t government grand?

The Foolish Reporter can be found at his blog, FoolishReporter.wordpress.com