DMV Investigators Stanislaus County District Attorney Arrest Auto Dealer in Modesto

California Department of Motor Vehicles
Media Relations Office
2415 First Avenue, MS F-122, Sacramento, CA 95818
Contact: DMV Media Relations

September 6, 2007

SacramentoInvestigators from the California Department of Motor Vehicles today arrested 50-year old Douglas Harding of Valley Center and filed a 38-count complaint with the San Diego County District Attorney charging him with allegedly defrauding 30 customers in vehicle transactions totaling more than $1.18 million. Harding’s business, Autopia Sales and Leasing, which was located at 760 W. Mission Avenue in Escondido for almost 16 years, stopped doing business in September, 2006.

DMV Director George Valverde said the arrest of Harding successfully concluded an 11-month investigation. "Our team of investigators is extremely professional, thorough and relentless in its pursuits of licensees who try to skirt the law and take advantage of customers who expect honest dealings.

"We absolutely intend to vigorously prosecute anyone who chooses to operate illegally and violate state laws. Consumer protection is one of the department’s highest priorities," he said.

Harding was taken into custody early this morning at his home and transported to the Central Jail in San Diego, where he was booked on a $250,000 bond. He is charged with numerous counts of failure to pay off trade-in vehicles, failure to transfer registrations, failure to pay off consigned vehicles that had been left at the dealership and subsequently sold, financing vehicles with more than one lender (double-funding), writing checks for loan payments on closed accounts or those that had insufficient funds, and fraudulent vehicle sales contracts that contained fictitious information.

DMV investigators first started receiving complaints against Harding in May, 2006. The 30 alleged victims include individual customers, lending/banking institutions and auto dealerships. An additional 147 vehicles are listed in the DMV complaint to the District Attorney that are connected with another 62 alleged fraud victims. Investigators point out that while these additional allegedly illegal transactions were not included in this particular filing with the San Diego District Attorney, they are noted in court documents "as evidence of overt acts"— and could be the basis for additional charges by DMV or the DA as the ongoing probe into Harding’s alleged illegal dealings continues. They also note that the total losses to these other alleged victims could total more than $3 million to $4 million.

Note to editors and assignment desks: Area Commander Frank Alvarez, DMV Investigations, will be available for local interviews. He can be reached at (619) 778-1344.

Don’t Stand In Line, Go Online! Doing business with the DMV has never been easier. The DMV offers an array of services to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through its Web site (, including online appointments for written and drive tests; vehicle registration and driver license renewals, selection of personalized license plates, changes of address and payment of fees via secure debit transactions

DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Secretary Dale E. Bonner. The DMV licenses drivers; maintains driving records; registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels; investigates auto and identity-related fraud; and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools.


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