KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A Frankfurt, N.Y., man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to over 30 charges in connection with fraudulent vehicle titles being processed at the local Department of Motor Vehicles office.
Veniamin "Venny" Skorobogach, 19, pleaded not guilty to 12 misdemeanor counts of vehicle-application-false statement, 12 felony counts of vehicle-forged papers-false statement, and 10 felony counts of false claim. The misdemeanor charges carry a maximum of two years in prison each, while the felonies carry no more than five, should he be convicted. He must also surrender his passport.
He was released on $5,000 and the condition he live with his family in Frankfurt. Deputy State's Attorney Robert Plunkett argued that Skorobogach was a flight risk, and asked Judge Karen Carroll to raise his bail to $10,000. Plunkett said Skorobogach has ties to Ukraine, and was there while Department of Motor Vehicles investigators were looking for him. He added that Skorobogach has no ties to Vermont other than his alleged illegal activity.
Attorney William D. Wright said his client left the country in December 2011 before he knew authorities were seeking him. He said he went to Ukraine, where he was born, to tend a sick relative, and upon his return was detained by U.S. immigration officials but then let go and given the impression everything was fine. He was unaware there was still an arrest warrant out for him from Vermont when he was recently arrested at a minor traffic stop.
According to an affidavit by DMV Investigator Mary McIntyre, in October 2011 she began investigating some vehicle title applications that had been processed by Marvin C. Bourn, 53, of Shaftsbury, who worked for the DMV out of Bennington at the time. She said four title applications he processed seemed to have incomplete, illegible, or false information on them.
She spoke to Bourn about it, and he said a man named Venny, later identified as Skorobogach, was the one bringing in the titles. In May 2012, Bourn pleaded guilty to a felony count of embezzlement, four felony counts of authoring a forged vehicle title, and one misdemeanor count of making false statements on a vehicle title.
Bourn admitted to reluctantly taking about $15 total from Skorobogach in exchange for processing the faulty titles as well as issuing him a Vermont driver's license with faulty information. Investigators had accused of him taking closer to $300.
According to another affidavit by McIntyre, her investigation of Skorobogach's activity indicated that he would register salvaged vehicles he bought in New York at the Vermont DMV, but would do so for other people as well, charging them a fee for helping them avoid New York's salvage examination process.
According to McIntyre, she spoke to Skorobogach on Nov. 30, 2011, over the phone and he told her he does travel to Vermont to register vehicle titles, usually his own. He said he goes through Bourn because the other DMV workers sometimes give him a hard time. He said he would meet with her after Jan. 1, as he was in South Dakota working in a sugar factory.
Wright said at the arraignment hearing that Skorobogach's alleged activities appear to have been driven somewhat by others.