Miami motorists better plan on getting permanent license tags soon because a flood of fake temporary tags means patrol officers are stopping a lot of cars.
"It's a big problem," said FHP Detective Sgt. Ken Pennington. "It could easily be 10 percent of Dade (County) tags that are not legitimate."
The white cards are issued to car buyers to tide them over while title and registration are processed and permanent metal plates are issued by the state.
But the cards propped in rear windows also can be reproduced easily on copiers and laser printers.
"To a layman, it looks the same," said Metro-Police officer Armando Oliva, who has been catching about two fakes a week on the road. "But if you look at it and know what you're looking for, you know it's no good."
When Metro-Dade police officers raided a used-car shop Friday, they found 10 homemade tags and charged five people with possession of counterfeits.
"A couple of people pulled in to buy new counterfeit tags, and the old counterfeit tags were still on their cars," said Sgt. Jim Davis. "We told them, "That's not the way it goes today, guys.'
Investigators suspect Juan Contreras-Martinez, 45, manager of Romana Auto Repo, was selling at least 75 fake tags a month.
Car dealers are allowed to issue two 30-day paper tags per automobile to give customers enough time to get titles transferred, register vehicles under a new name and get the standard metal tags.
The state has computerized records on permanent tags, but there is no readily accessible information on temporary tags.
With costly insurance requirements and rising registration fees, not everybody follows the rules. And counterfeits are showing up in armed robberies and other crimes.
Bothersome bear lured by day-old doughnuts
ASTOR _ The doughnuts were this bear's downfall.
A hungry bear blamed for invading patios and grubbing through garbage cans was trapped Friday in the Volusia County community of Astor, on the edge of Osceola National Forest.
The 150-pound female was lured to a trap with day-old doughnuts. After tagging by state wildlife officers, she was released a mile away to reunite with a cub that wasn't trapped.
The trappers aren't worried about her becoming a nuisance again. They say animals caught in the tube-shaped culvert trap usually learn a lesson and don't head back to the same area again.