Claflin Police Chief Gary Vaughan was approached last week by a Claflin man who lent his vehicle to a friend. The friend was stopped by a Kansas Highway Patrol officer and ticketed for illegal registration on his 2002 Toyota Sequoia.
The man told Vaughan that the same plate had been on his car for at least the past three years, and he wanted to know if his plate had been switched. Vaughan looked at the sticker on the plate, noticed the number did not match the plate, and knew right away the chances of the plate being criminally switched weren’t likely.
However, he continued investigating, and learned the man had been issued the correct sticker for his registration, but he was issued the wrong plate.
As he continued to dig, Vaughan learned the plate was registered to a utility trailer of an individual in Great Bend. Again, that person was issued the correct sticker, but the wrong plate.
This plate he was issued was for a 2016 Honda Odyssey belonging to a person from Hoisington, and that person’s plate had been issued for a 2007 Freightliner semi truck of another individual in Great Bend.
“I found four in one hour, and it kept snowballing,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan contacted County Treasurer Kevin Wondra’s office. Wondra, he said, was unavailable, so he talked with a staff person there. He also reported his findings to the Claflin City Council at their August meeting Monday night.
Vaughan said he alerted the KHP about his findings.
“When we work injury and fatality accidents, sometimes we can’t find individual identification, so we rely on registration to point the way to contact next of kin,” he said.
The Great Bend Tribune alerted Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir who was unaware of the recent incidents, but said he would contact his deputies and let them know.
There have been cases of this before in the county.
The Tribune contacted Wondra who indicated he was aware of the recent incidents, but had not had time to investigate.
However, Rachel Whitten, media relations with the Kansas Department of Revenue Vehicle Division, provided the Tribune with the following statement.
“According to the Barton County treasurer, a former employee mailed license plates to the wrong individuals. They are working with the individuals involved to correct the problem. We recommend to the individuals that received a traffic citation they should talk with the trooper and/or the county attorney and have the citation dismissed.”
When asked about the number of plates that could be involved, Whitten stated that would be question to direct to Wondra. She added that a vehicle owner can verify their registration receipt with their license plate and decal. All three should have the same plate number and the registration receipt should identify the owner and vehicle. If the vehicle owner has any questions they can call the KDR Vehicle Division help desk at 785-296-3852.