Bamboozled: Fighting state’s plate frame fine

Last month’s Bamboozled column about oversized license plate frames and obstructed plate traffic violations spurred dozens of BB brandingreaders to share their plate frame sightings.

Yes, they’re everywhere.

They sport the names of athletic teams. Advertise for car dealerships. Schools. There are cute or political sayings.

There are even oversized license plate frames that support the Fraternal Order of Police. Bamboozled didn’t witness those, but it was reported by several readers.

We went to the source — the FOP “cop shop” in Newark — and retired Newark police sergeant Bob Koval said yes, the FOP plate frames sold in the store do cover part of the wording on the license plate.

In other words, the FOP plate frames are a violation.

National FOP spokesman Jim Pasco said he wasn’t aware of the problem until Bamboozled told him.

“We will take a serious look at this because we do not want to do anything that would be in violation of any state or local law,” Pasco said.

Now to the car dealerships, which use the frames as a marketing tool. We wanted to know if the dealerships realize they’re potentially setting their customers up for a ticket.

102510Gold Coast Cadillac in Oakhurst is well aware, said Keith Harvey, executive manager of the dealership.

“If a customer happens to be ticketed for the frame, we reimburse them,” Harvey said. “For us, it happens maybe once a month. It’s a cost-benefit thing. The benefit to having the larger plate frame and having our name out there is worth more than the cost of reimbursing the ticket for the customer.”

He said the dealership has no plans to switch to thinner plate frames.

Ray Catena Auto Group, which sells brands across the state, said it’s also aware of the plate frame issue. It acknowledged there are lots of Ray Catena oversized plate frames on the road, but said the company now only uses the thin plate frames. Any customer with a frame that covers license plate wording can go to a dealership for a compliant frame.

We next chatted with the supplier of the New Jersey Institute of Technology plate frame that got our original driver, Girish Mehta, an obstructed license plate ticket.

The bookstore that sold the frame is run by Follett, a company that manages bookstores at universities nationwide. The plate frames were pulled from the NJIT store after Bamboozled’s inquiries, but what about Follett’s other campus bookstores?

We asked Elio Distaola, Follett’s director of campus relations, if the company was aware that its products could result in tickets for its customers.

“We cater not only to students and people living in the area, but to alumni who would live elsewhere that are in states that have different regulations on license plates and frames,” he said.

Not true, said Steve Carrellas of the National Motorists Association.

“All states have license plate obstruction laws since they have to protect against motorists concealing the information on their plates,” Carrellas said.

We took that back to Distaola, who said the company would explore the issue, but it would not notify customers about the potential for violations.

“It will probably be another couple of weeks until we have a game plan,” he said.

Bamboozled will absolutely check back for an update.

In the meantime, if you have an oversized plate frame on your car, note that police officers rarely pull drivers over for the violation. Mehta, for example, was originally questioned at the checkpoint about what the officer called a suspicious-looking inspection sticker. The sticker was legit.

If an officer decides not to ticket a driver for the initial violation, the obstructed license plate ticket is commonly given as a “break” ticket, said Carrellas.

“The issue isn’t so much the obstruction law, but how it’s enforced,” he said. “The town gets a little revenue, and the officer probably gave the summons to justify the stop. If no summons were given, Mr. Mehta could potentially file a complaint against the officer for stopping him and the ticket provided the officer his cover.”

Mehta’s court date is set for Nov. 17. We’ll keep you posted.


The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs says it hasn’t had a lot response to a recent settlement between the state and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. If you qualify, this is a great opportunity for some monetary relief.

The state said three companies acquired by Wells Fargo — Wachovia, Golden West and World Savings — sold thousands of “Pick-a-Payment” mortgages in New Jersey. Customers could choose their payments, but the low payment options were sometimes not enough to cover the interest on the loans. In those cases, unpaid interest was added to the principle balance, ultimately leading to higher-than-expected monthly payments.

“Some borrowers became delinquent and faced the prospect of foreclosure,” the press release said. “Others ultimately lost their homes.”

The state said the lenders did not adequately explain the risks.

Wells will provide New Jersey customers with nearly $67 million in loan modifications though June 30, 2013, and forgive all accrued interest and late fees for eligible borrowers who still live in their homes.

Wells will also pay the state $3.98 million. Of that, up to $2 million will paid as restitution to New Jersey consumers who became delinquent and lost homes through foreclosure or short sales between Jan. 2, 2005, and Dec. 18, 2010.

The remaining $1.98 million will be used in efforts to combat mortgage fraud, loan modification fraud and to prevent foreclosures, the state said.

If you think you may qualify, call Wells Fargo at (888) 565-1422 or apply online through Consumer Affairs at


We recently shared several stories of sewer main line backups into homeowners’ basements. The homeowners were all denied claims by the municipality’s insurance.

In the case of the Kinney home in Roselle Park, the denial letter partly blamed the sewer problems on a storm, and said the borough can’t be held responsible for the weather.

That line hit a chord with reader Harriet Dolce Knevals of Morris Township.

Knevals said a tree fell on her home last year, and her insurance company denied her claim, calling it an “Act of God.”

“I said, very sweetly, to the adjuster, ‘When you can prove to me that a being reached down from the sky, and smote the tree and directed it to fall on my house, then the term is legitimate,’ ” Knevals said in an e-mail. “There was silence at the other end of the phone. My claim was approved.”

Something to consider if your claim is ever denied for an “Act of God.”