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Investigation alleges County Clerk altered titles for loans | News

Results of an investigation into Overton County Clerk’s Office have been turned over to the Office of the District Attorney General of the 13th Judicial District. Those findings allege that fake vehicle titles were created to obtain personal loans.

The investigation perfomed by Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, working in conjunction with Tennessee Highway Patrol and Tennessee Department of Revenue, revealed that Overton County Clerk Victoria Looper, working in her capacity as clerk, allegedly altered vehicle titles to improperly generate new registrations and titles. She then used those titles to obtain personal bank loans.

Key findings from the investigation include the following allegations:

•The clerk altered a title for a 1949 Cadillac to indicate that it had been sold to one of her family members, then altered the date of the sale to represent that it had been recently purchased.

The 1949 Cadillac had been destroyed in a garage fire around the year 2000. The clerk allegedly registered the title with the state and used the new, false title as collateral to obtain a $15,000 personal bank loan.

“The clerk altered the buyer’s information on the back of the title for a 1949 Cadillac by marking through the prior owner’s printed name and inserting her family member’s name,” the investigative report states. “She also marked out the prior owner’s signature and replaced it with a signature to match the family member’s name and then altered the date of the sale to represent that the vehicle had been recently purchased.

“The prior owner, whose name and signature had been marked through on the title, stated the 1949 Cadillac had been destroyed in a garage fire sometime around the year 2000. The clerk registered the altered title with the State of Tennessee and subsequently presented the false title to a financial institution as collateral for a personal loan.”

•The clerk altered the transaction information on the title for a 1979 Ford. Although this vehicle no longer exists, the clerk allegedly registered the vehicle with the state and used the new, false title as part of the collateral to obtain a $28,000 personal bank loan.

“The clerk obtained a second title from the same acquaintance mentioned above for a 1979 Ford,” the investigative report states. “The seller and purchaser information were completed to show the transaction was between the clerk and the prior owner; however, both the clerk and the acquaintance stated the title passed from the acquaintance to the clerk, not the prior owner to clerk.

“This 1979 Ford no longer exists; however, the clerk registered the title with the State of Tennessee and presented the false title to a financial institution as collateral for a personal loan.”

During an interview with Highway Patrol and Revenue investigators, Looper reportedly admitted to altering titles to obtain loans, and she stated she never took possession of the vehicles in question.

“The Overton County Clerk altered vehicle titles to improperly generate new registrations and new titles, which she used to obtain personal bank loans,” the investigative report states. “During our investigation, the clerk stated she was given paper certificates of title (titles) to vehicles by an acquaintance, and she altered at least two of these titles, falsifying sales information to obtain new registrations and new titles. She then used these new vehicle titles to obtain personal loans.”

Looper also allegedly manipulated and/or avoided paying sales tax by declaring vehicles as gifts, thereby falsifying county and state records. In one instance, the clerk sold a vehicle to a mechanic to whom she owed money and allowed it to be registered as a gift to the buyer.

Investigators also allege that Looper had misappropriated county-owned assets when she removed office furniture, equipment, and some flooring from the Clerk’s Office space. She did not obtain approval from Overton County Executive Ben Danner. The office furniture and other equipment was loaded into a trailer and taken to private property. None of those items had been returned to the county as of the date of the report.

“Public officials must conduct government business with a high level of integrity,” said Comptroller Jason E. Mumpower. “Falsifying transactions and creating erroneous tax exemptions violate state guidelines and statutes. Citizens expect their elected officials to demonstrate both personal and professional ethical conduct.”

To view the investigative report visit https://comptroller.tn.gov/office-functions/investigations/find.html.

Looper, who has been in office since 2014, is currently running for re-election to the office.

Overton County Audit Committee met Tuesday, April 12 to discuss findings in the County Clerk’s Office.

According to Audit Committee member County Commissioner Donna Savage, first addressed the finding concerning money not being deposited within three days, and Looper told them that she is now making daily deposits.

The second finding was that the County Clerk is under review.

“When I asked the County Clerk if she could enlighten us on why she is under review, she told me that I could talk with her lawyer,” Commissioner Savage stated.

“I have made a call to her lawyer and left a message but received no response.”

She noted that meetings are open to the public, taped, and stored at the County Executive’s Office.

The Audit Committee will meet at 12:30 p.m. Monday, May 2.