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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Remember toll booths?
They’ve largely gone the way of the dinosaur and now SunPass scanners and license plate cameras are used to collect highway tolls.
Some drivers, however, are using a sophisticated technology to dodge their toll tab.
Sammy and Mayte Salinas were driving in Miami-Dade recently when they saw the darndest thing: A car in front of them with its license plate covered while it went under a row of toll cameras on the Dolphin expressway.
At the next toll by plate cameras, they took out their own camera and, sure enough, recorded as a black cover came down over the plate of the car ahead.
After getting clear of the toll by plate cameras, the driver activated a device, lifting the black cover off the license plate.
The Salinas’ sent the crime caught on camera to CBS4 News.
“It’s not fair. We all have to pay tolls, so why not him,” Sammy Salinas said. “That’s what the reason for the Sunpass is, for everybody that’s using the highways, so we all have to pay tolls on it.”
We showed the video to the Florida Highway patrol.
“Wow. Incredible,” Trooper Joe Sanchez remarked as he watched the recording of the now you see it, now you don’t license plate.
“They’re getting very creative,” Sanchez said, but he said it’s nothing the FHP hasn’t seen before.
In fact, they run special details at toll by plate locations to nab drivers with the automated license plate covers.
CBS4 News found the things advertised for sale all over the internet; on Ebay, Amazon and various gadget websites.
Typically, the covers are rolled up in a special license plate frame, and are lowered and raised when the driver pushes a button.
They sell for $100 or more, or for as little as $15.
Sanchez advised against investing in one of them.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be very expensive once we stop you and make that arrest,” Sanchez said.
As for the driver of the maroon Chrysler Pacifica, bearing Florida plate DSB5U caught on camera: You’re busted.
“We’re going to be needing this video,” Sanchez said of the Salinas’ recording. “We’ll need it for our investigation.”
The minimum fine for obscuring your license plate – for any reason, let alone toll fraud – is $179.
Once an offender has been found out, Sanchez said the FDOT can use photographic records to identify cars and go after their owners for prior debts, and they’ve had some success.
Sanchez recalled one case in which a judge ordered a truck driver to pay more than $3,000 in unpaid tolls.
Sanchez said the driver had rigged a system that allowed him to pull a cord, flipping his license plate to point toward pavement, away from the view of the cameras.