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Schuylkill County News

Girardville Cop in Prison, Charged With Operating Fraudulent Berwick Car Dealership

Jeremy Talanca facing 50+ felony charges.

A police lieutenant in Girardville is facing dozens of felony charges alleging he runs a fraudulent car dealership in Berwick. 

According to a criminal complaint filed by Trooper Bruce Balliet with State Police-Hazleton’s Vehicle Fraud Investigative Unit, Jeremy Talanca, 47, sold vehicles to several people from his dealership, Keystone Auto Exchange LLC, didn’t do the proper title work on those sales, sold fraudulent warranties, acted as a notary illegally, and ignored customer complaints, among other illegal activities. 

The Shenandoah Sentinel reports that Talanca is the officer-in-charge of Girardville’s police force and assumed that role in January 2023. 

An investigation into Talanca’s allegedly illegal activities began earlier this year, on Jan. 17, during a PennDOT audit of his business. 

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On that date, at about 11 a.m., PennDOT auditor Jung Chon says she went to Keystone Auto Exchange in Berwick. As Chon was looking through Talanca’s paperwork at the business, she noticed multiple MV forms that Talanca had, filled out and signed by him. 

This was a red flag for Chon, seeing as how Talanca allegedly isn’t a notary and shouldn’t have these forms. 

Chon says she began taking photos of these forms at Talanca’s business. When Talanca saw what Chon was doing, he lost his temper and began yelling at her, she says. Talanca allegedly said that “he is a police officer and knows his rights and she needs to leave,” Chon told Balliet. 

Chon says she got nervous and left the business and contacted State Police two days later, on the 19th.

In the meantime, Balliet was contacted on the 18th of January by several alleged victims of Talanca’s business practices. Two of the victims who contacted police say they were customers of Talanca. The third was the brother of one of the alleged victims, police say in their affidavit against Talanca. 

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Balliet agreed to meet with the victims and hear their complaints. 

Meanwhile, on the 19th, that’s when Chon contacted police and requested a Trooper be present as she again tried to audit Talanca’s dealership. 

Before that audit was to happen again, Balliet met with people who said they were Talanca’s victims. 

On Jan. 21, Balliet says he met with one victim who says they purcahsed a vehicle from Talanca on Dec. 16, 2023. Talanca allegedly gave her an MV-4 form and said they were “good to go” and that they’d receive the rest of their paperwork in the mail. 

That MV-4 form – which Chon previous noted Talanca should not have had since he wasn’t a notary – had Talanca listed as the issuing agent. 

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Another one of Talanca’s victims tells Balliet they purchased a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox from Keystone Auto Exchange for $4,500 in September 2023. Part of that price, they say, was the purchase of an “express warranty”.

This victim produced a photo of the bill of sale and police say that bill of sale shows proof that the purported victim in this instance did purcahse that express warranty. However, the victim had no physical copy of the warranty and no description of what was covered in that so-called warranty.

When this buyer began having problems with the vehicle they bought, Talanca provided them with a loaner vehicle but they returned it “due to the vehicle not being safe and reliable.” The buyer says they did not get their Equinox back and has never received the title for it, four months after it was purchased from Keystone Auto Exchange. 

That same day, police met with the brother of another alleged victim of Talanca’s shady business. They told police they were present the day their brother bought the vehicle at Keystone Auto Sales, on Dec. 28, 2023. The vehicle purchased was a 2003 Buick LeSabre. 

The brother meeting with police allegedly showed investigators the MV-4ST document, which apparently shows that this LeSabre was purchased for $1,000. That form also apparently showed Talanca putting his own name down as the issuing agent, which police say he isn’t. 

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The buyer and their brother took the LeSabre to Talanca’s dealership to have it repair or their money refunded on Jan. 15 of this year. Talanca, they say, has not refunded their money and hasn’t returned any phone calls to them. 

On Jan. 23, Balliet says he met with three other officers and Chon at Berwick Police Dept. They all went to Keystone Auto to conduct a follow-up audit but the business was closed. So, later in the day, they made contact with Talanca at his Berwick home. 

Police asked Talanca if they could all go to his business to conduct the audit but he refused. As Balliet tried to ask Talanca about some of the sales he’d already heard about from people claiming to be victims of his alleged shady dealings, Talanca was “not cooperative,” the complaint says. 

On Feb. 1, Balliet says he met with a fourth victim of Talanca’s business practices who said they purchased a vehicle from him on Jan. 2. During that transaction, Talanca allegedly gave the buyer a bill of sale but said he didn’t have time to do the title work and gave that buyer a Dealer plate and said that’d work until he could get the registration completed. 

The buyer told Balliet that they’ve never heard back from Talanca since. 

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Before hearing from that fourth victim, Balliet says he visited Skippy’s Auto Sales, of Berwick, on Jan. 26, to conduct an audit there. Talanca apparently used this business to do the PennDOT title work he needed to complete sales. 

While at Skippy’s, Balliet said he spoke with a titling agent there, Antoinette Kester. Kester showed Balliet the MV forms Skippy’s completed for Talanca and Keystone Auto Exchange. 

A folder with these documents contained 22 MV-4 packets and 1 MV-1 packet. Of the 23 packets, only 1 had a title attached. 

“These MV packets were all filled out with the buyers name, vehicle info, registration info, and the PennDOT fees, sales tax, and notary fees were all collected from the individuals,” Balliet writes in his criminal complaint. 

Just one of the packets had a title attached to it. The MV-4 form was filled out on Oct. 10, 2023, but hadn’t yet been sent to PennDOT for processing. 

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Balliet details in his complaint how Talanca operated: 

“Talanca would come to their business with the buyer of a vehicle, and she would fill out the MV-1 or MV-4 form in order to transfer the title complete the registration information of the vehicle sale. Kester related she would then give the pink copy (aka pink slip) of the form to the victim without having the original certificate of title in hand. Kester related she would collect all the PennDOT fees, sales tax, and notary fees from the buyer and hold the paperwork until Talanca gave them the title. Once they receive the title from Talanca they would then complete the paperwork and send everything down to PennDot. Kester related she knew they were not following PennDOT regulations when they were filling out the PennDOT MV forms.”

Balliet says he collected 22 of the 23 MV packets from Skippy’s in order to make contact with the people he’s calling Talanca’s victims in this case. 

After securing a warrant for Talanca’s arrest, the Girardville cop was taken before District Magistrate Brenda Hess Williams, of Berwick.

Talanca is being charged with 27 counts of third-degree felony theft by deception, 26 counts of third-degree felony tampering with public records, and dozens more misdemeanor and summary offenses. 

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Williams set bail for Talanca at $50,000 cash and was sent to Columbia County Prison, where he currently remains (as of publishing). Talanca is due in court for his Preliminary Hearing on Feb. 14.

The Sentinel reports that Talanca is currently off the work schedule in Girardville.

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