OLYMPIA…Lakewood driving school owner Gary R. Probst received a 50-day sentence in Thurston County Superior Court Thursday afternoon after entering a guilty plea for one count of first degree theft for evading more than $14,000 in taxes.
The Attorney General’s Office filed charges against Probst after a joint investigation revealed he had used an Oregon driver’s license with a false address to purchase 16 vehicles in Oregon and avoid more than $14,000 in Washington state sales and use tax.
The investigation was conducted in conjunction with personnel from the Washington State Patrol – Criminal Investigation Division and the Washington Departments of Licensing and Revenue with assistance from personnel from the Oregon Departments of Licensing and Revenue.
Washington state law allows vehicle owners moving to Washington to avoid paying vehicle use tax if they have owned their vehicle(s) for at least 90 days prior to titling the vehicle in the State of Washington.
The joint investigation found that with one exception, all 16 vehicles were purchased by Probst in Washington but titled using an Oregon address. Probst subsequently re-titled the vehicles in Washington within about four months of their purchase. The exception was a vehicle Probst kept titled in Oregon for nearly three years before making application to title the vehicle in Washington.
The Attorney General’s Office had called for Probst to serve 90 days in jail—the maximum sentence for his crime— but Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Strophy instead settled on a 50-day sentence to be split between 20 days of work release and 30 days converted to 240 hours of community service. Probst will also be required to pay all restitution within 10 days of completion of his work release time.
The Lakewood man was a licensed commercial driving school owner and operator, doing business principally as Diamond Driving School, America’s Best Driving School, and Quality Driving School, with locations throughout Washington. In October 2006, the Department of Licensing (DOL) took action to close 41 driver training schools across the state owned by Probst. On Oct. 4, Probst signed an agreed order revoking his driver training school licenses and his right to reapply for driver training school licenses for 10 years. His driver instructor license was revoked for five years.
“Mr. Probst conducted an elaborate series of fraudulent activity and theft, while shortchanging young drivers seeking a quality drivers’ education,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna. “Today, thanks to the joint efforts of the Washington State Patrol, the DOR, DOL and my office with help from the Oregon Departments of Licensing and Revenue, we brought Mr. Probst one step closer to justice. These are the kinds of complex cases our Criminal Justice Division handles to help county prosecutors with their workloads.
“Assistant attorney general Scott Marlow, investigator Jim Green and legal assistant Daisy Jacobsen are to be commended for their hard work in this case,” McKenna said.
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Janelle Guthrie, AG Communications Director, 360-586-0725
Brad Benfield, DOL Communications Director, 360-902-3723