BELFAST, Maine — A city man was charged Wednesday with running an illegal used car lot from his Main Street dooryard.
Matteo Adragna, 49, of 183 Main St. was charged with operating an unlicensed car dealership. He was booked at the Waldo County Jail and released later that day on personal recognizance bail.
Don Cookson, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, credited Belfast police Detective Michael McFadden with alerting Bureau of Motor Vehicles investigators to Adragna’s alleged activities.
Cookson said BMV investigator Scott Robideau and McFadden took part in the search of Adragna’s home.
Seized were a 2000 Dodge Ram pickup truck, several pages of printed records that detailed alleged sale of used cars from Adragna’s address and a Massachusetts dealer’s plate issued to Rowley Motor Car Co.
“It is unknown at this time whether any connection between that company and Mr. Adragna is known or exists at all,” Cookson said.
Cookson said additional charges against Adragna were likely, based on evidence obtained during the search of his home.
“Obviously, we take this very seriously,” said David Guilmette, director of the BMV’s Office of Investigations. “For us, this is a consumer protection issue, plain and simple, because anybody who buys a car from an unlicensed dealer has no legal recourse available to them in the event of problems with that vehicle down the road.”
Guilmette said putting an unlicensed dealer out of business is also good for Maine’s business community. “When you have legitimate dealers working hard and playing by the rules, it’s not fair for them to have to compete with someone who operates outside the law,” he said.
Guilmette also noted the collaborative nature of the operation. “We worked very closely with the Belfast Police Department on this, and we’re thankful for their assistance in all phases of this operation,” he said.
Authorities began focusing their attention on Adragna’s activities last month while investigating a rash of burglaries in Belfast and neighboring towns. On Oct. 9, police arrested Belfast residents Jason Littlefield and Timothy Hubbard, both 26, in connection with break-ins in Monroe and Jackson.
During the course of that investigation, the burglary task force, consisting of detectives from Belfast, the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department and Maine State Police, determined that cash taken in the Jackson break-in was used to buy a 1996 Dodge pickup truck from Adragna. The truck apparently had been imported from Mas-sachusetts using dealer plates from that state.
McFadden said that when he contacted Adragna to advise him he would have to return the $2,000 he received from the sale of the truck, Adragna refused to do so. McFadden said Adragna told him the sale was legal and final and that he did not have to return the proceeds. At that point, McFadden said, he contacted BMV.
Once BMV investigators began looking into the situation, they soon gathered enough information to obtain a search warrant.
“He definitely got our attention,” McFadden said.