AUBURN — A former Lewiston used car dealer pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to five counts of misdemeanor forgery and was ordered to pay $5,000 in fines.

Danny Pulkkinen, 61, of Turner, who previously owned U-Turn Auto Sales on Lisbon Street, pleaded guilty to five counts of Class D forgery.

The misdemeanor crime is punishable by less than a year in jail and up to $2,000 for each count.

Pulkkinen was originally indicted June 15 on 15 counts of aggravated forgery and one count of aggravated theft for selling vehicles with false titles and outstanding liens to customers.

However, Deputy District Attorney Jim Andrews told Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford on Tuesday that as part of a plea agreement with Pulkkinen’s attorney, the state was dismissing the 15 counts of aggravated forgery and one of aggravated theft, and adding the five counts of misdemeanor forgery.

Pulkkinen will also pay $1,000 per count, and be responsible for more than $1,000 in surcharges.

The sales took place over eight months, ending in February 2014.

The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles did a monthslong investigation in the summer of 2014. A detective at the agency said the bureau received several complaints from people who said their vehicles were being repossessed, but they weren’t aware that money was owed on them.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said Pulkkinen had been purchasing vehicles from an auto-auction company, and made an arrangement to “buy the vehicles through a loan” and “continually pay on them as they were sold.”

“That’s not really how it’s supposed to work,” Matulis said. “It all falls apart if you fall behind on the payments.”

Everett Kaherl, senior detective for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, said Pulkkinen borrowed money to buy the vehicles and “the lender put his name on every title and then stopped giving titles back when he stopped getting paid.”

Instead of paying back the lender when the cars were sold, Pulkkinen allegedly used the money to pay bills and did not provide the true vehicle titles to the people who purchased the cars.

The forgery charges stemmed from Pulkkinen writing title numbers onto the title application “that did not go with the particular vehicle that they were selling,” Matulis said.

The agency said 23 consumers were affected. The state was able to invoke the dealer’s bond on the vehicles to pay back the lender so he would release to the titles to the consumers who had purchased the vehicles.

Pulkkinen’s company was dissolved by the state in October 2014 after failing to maintain workers’ compensation insurance and pay penalties.

Andrews said restitution in the case had been resolved.

Clifford asked Pulkkinen how he would pay the fines. Pulkkinen said he would pay $4,000 of his fines after Tuesday’s hearing, another $1,000 on or before Aug. 1, and the surcharges on or before Sept. 1.

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