Police: Shop owner’s schemes have ‘gone on too long’

Josh's Used Tires and Wheels. (Robert Maxwell/KXAN)

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) – Detectives working with Department of Public Safety agents say the criminal case against a longstanding auto repair shop owner is building to the point where they hope to hand off their evidence to prosecutors with the Texas Attorney General’s Office within weeks.

Cedar Park Det. Sgt. Scott Buchanan told KXAN that Tuesday morning’s raid at Josh Rosa’s Used Tires and Wheels on North Bell Boulevard helps “wrap up our side of things (so) we can forward it up to the Attorney General’s office and say, ‘Look we’ve done all we can, what can you do to help us out?’”

If the state takes the case, investigators could end up fining Rosa for deceptive business practices or even charging him with running a continuing criminal enterprise, Buchanan says. Police say that could ultimately force Rosa to close his Cedar Park business.

Buchanan says any criminal trial based on evidence gathered by Cedar Park Police could run at the same time as a possible state investigation.

Authorities say the new charges relate to an alleged emissions testing scheme at the state licensed auto testing facility that is part of Rosa’s business. Arrest documents allege Rosa knew a customer’s vehicle would not pass inspection. Documents show Rosa allegedly told his worker to use a second vehicle to pass the emissions test and enter the customer’s vehicle ID number into the state system.

In Texas an auto repair shop with a state emissions testing computer must have it connected to the state vehicle database which is designed to cross check vehicle ID numbers. So when a garage employee manually enters a customer’s vehicle ID number into the system, the number must match one scanned in electronically. If they do not match, investigators can use that as evidence of criminal tampering.

Williamson County Jail records show both Josh Rosa, 33, and his vehicle inspector, 42-year-old Hugh Jeffery Johnson, bonded out of Williamson County jail Wednesday.

An accompanying Texas Department of Public Safety complaint document alleges over a one-year period ending January 2014, Johnson used the so-called ‘clean scan’ technique 12 different times using nine different ‘donor vehicles.’

Ongoing Investigation
Buchanan’s team of detectives is the same group who brought two felony theft charges against Rosa earlier this year. That arrest was the subject of a KXAN Investigation.

In March KXAN revealed Rosa was charged with two counts of felony theft after allegedly spray painting existing auto parts on customers’ vehicles – people who had paid Rosa to install new parts including critical safety items like brake system parts.

State records show he registered a business called Joshua Rosa Enterprises LLC with the Texas Secretary of State in 2007.  About the time Josh’s Used Tires opened, he added a used auto dealership called Premiere Auto Sales on the Cedar Park property.  A check of its website shows it does not appear to have been updated since March, the last time KXAN checked.

Vehicles at the location were still listed for sale. Police say some have recently been moved to another of Rosa’s businesses 12 miles up State Highway 29 in Liberty Hill. State records show it was registered as an LLC in late 2013.

Property records in Travis County show Rosa is also listed as owner of a small used tire business on W. Anderson Lane in North Austin. A recent drive-by confirmed the same bright green paint used on the other two locations. There is no indication of any criminal investigation involving that location.

We checked Rosa’s home in rural Leander and found it has been listed for sale for 22 days with an asking price of $475,000. Williamson County appraisal records show he bought the property in 2004. In 2013 the 3.9-acre spread was appraised at $311,848.

No one appeared to be home when KXAN visited. Neighbors KXAN spoke with are not surprised Rosa is selling his property given years of ‘drama’ and said they have not seen him there for awhile.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality records show in June 2007 Rosa was ordered to stop storing more than 500 tires on the property. A complaint had alerted state environmental inspectors. That August the record shows Rosa agreed to store no more than 2,000 tires in a closed, locked trailer.

Fast forward to 2014: both the apparent consolidation of his vehicle sales business and the real estate action imply Rosa may be getting ready for a costly legal fight or the closure of his Cedar Park business.

Someone who says they grew up with Josh Rosa in Williamson County and knew him as a teenager tells KXAN if Rosa is forced to close his Cedar Park business, and if he receives no jail or prison time, he will try and set up his auto repair business in a nearby community where fewer people know him. The person did not want to be identified for this investigation fearing reprisal from Rosa.

KXAN’s March investigation also revealed court documents showing up to nine former customers sued Rosa’s business. Most claimed he over billed them or charged for work they had not agreed to. Some settled and some of the rulings favored Rosa. For years though Cedar Park police have been called to the brightly painted shop to help resolve customer disputes.

“It’s been going on too long,” said Buchanan. “I’ve been with Cedar Park (PD) for eight years. He’s been there (in the community) well before me. So I’d like to see it all come to a close.”

Police say this week’s charges added to the felonies from this spring could make it harder for Rosa’s lawyer to ask for a plea deal. A court date has yet to be set.

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