PROVIDENCE — The free ride is over for nearly a hundred Rhode Islanders who registered their cars at an empty field in Jefferson, Maine.
The bills for their unpaid speeding tickets, red-light tickets and parking tickets — totalling more than $16,000 owed to the city of Providence — were being mailed to their residences on Monday. By registering their vehicles on a rural lot hundreds of miles away, the Rhode Island residents were able to evade higher car taxes, higher insurance rates — and automated tickets.
Until now. After an investigation with the Providence Police Department, the Providence Municipal Court has tracked down where the scofflaws actually lived.
Despite their Maine license plates, 99 of the vehicles were owned by Rhode Islanders, and most live in Providence, said court administrator Patrick Butler.
The court started looking into these unpaid tickets three months ago, after a clerk noticed that the same address kept coming up on dozens of tickets. At the same time, a Providence patrolman also noticed the same Maine address on local registrations.
As the Globe reported in June, the lot at 94 Waldoboro Road in Jefferson, Maine, belongs to the STAAB Agency, one of the third-party agents that conducts online registrations for the Maine Department of Motor Vehicles.
Unlike Rhode Island, where residents are required to register their vehicles where they live, Maine has no such restrictions. Maine allows anyone to register a vehicle there, regardless of residency status.
Violations of the city’s automated red-light cameras and speed cameras are mailed to the address on the registration, which, by Rhode Island law, is supposed to be the “true” address of the vehicle. Instead, Butler said, the tickets were being mailed to Jefferson, where they went unpaid.
In response to a public-records request from the Globe, the court calculated that $16,355 was owed by drivers of the vehicles registered at that Waldoboro Road address.
That includes $2,950 in speeding tickets, $7,735 in red-light violations, and $5,670 in parking tickets. Some of the vehicles have multiple violations, Butler said.
If the owners of the vehicles don’t take action, they’ll receive a court date. Under state law, the court will block the registration of vehicles with more than $200 in unpaid tickets, Butler said.
During an investigation over the last year, Providence patrolman Mac Field identified a total of 4,900 vehicles, trailers, and motorcycles registered in Maine that have Rhode Island addresses. That includes 430 in Providence, of which at least 200 are registered at that one lot in Jefferson.