It was almost like something out of an old James Bond movie.
Florida Highway Patrol officers arrested Robert Craig Davis, 70, on Nov. 17. They say he repeatedly used a remote-control device to raise and lower a black cloth shield over his license plate so that toll cameras could not read his plate and send him a bill for using a toll road.
Davis first came to the attention of CBS4 reporters this summer — and to investigators from Miami-Dade police and the Florida Highway Patrol who saw the report. Motorists Sammy and Mayte Salinas shot video of the canny cloaking device when they saw a black cover roll down over the plate obscuring the numbers as the minivan sailed through a toll on the Dolphin Expressway and then rise again to reveal the plate once it cleared the plaza.
They sent Miami Herald news partner CBS4 their video of the sliding license plate cover and law enforcement proved most interested.
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Miami Beach-based filmmaker Billy Corben also posted a video clip of the device going up and down over a license plate to his 58,000 followers on Twitter in June.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Alejandro Camacho was off duty but spotted Davis’ burgundy Chrysler Pacifica outfitted with the remote-controlled license plate cover as the minivan passed southbound through the Bird Road toll plaza on Florida’s Turnpike.
Camacho followed Davis’ minivan in his own car and alerted fellow FHP troopers.
Sgt. Carlos Vanegas stopped Davis at mile marker 6 on the Turnpike, according to the arrest report.
FHP troopers Vanegas and Dennis Gallo searched Davis’ vehicle and found a remote control device that was used to raise and lower the license plate “curtain.” They also saw a SunPass transponder inside a static shield bag in the Chrysler’s glove box that was “not properly affixed to this vehicle’s window for use,” according to the arrest affidavit.
“The actions of the defendant showed an ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud the SunPass toll system,” Gallo wrote in the report.
The Detroit-born Davis, who lives in Key Largo, told CBS4’s Gary Nelson he did not use a license plate cover to dodge tolls.
Davis was charged with organized fraud and petit theft, booked into jail on Nov. 17, and released the same day.