This award is presented to a member of the law enforcement community who has demonstrated exceptional performance in the area of auto theft prevention and investigation. The award is restricted to active law enforcement personnel who are members in good standing of the Western Regional Chapter of IAATI. The award consists of a plaque and payment of registration fee for the yearly Seminar. A $500.00 cash stipend can be applied for to assist with the recipient’s expenses to attend the Annual Seminar (hotel/travel/etc) where the award will be presented. Contact the WRC-IAATI Treasurer Dennis Frias for information on the requirement to qualify for the stipend.

The recipient will be determined by a committee comprised of Western Regional Chapter Executive Board members. Please submit nominations to 2018-2019 WRC-IAATI President Wendell Takata and Treasurer Dennis Frias by August 16, 2019. Please submit a 1 page description of the nomination. The cut-off date for the nominated activity is between June 15, 2018 and June 15, 2019. The award will be presented during the Western States Auto Theft Investigators Association (WSATI) Training Seminar in San Diego, taking place on October 13-17, 2019. For further information on the Seminar, please click here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Wendell Takata or Dennis Frias.


Year Name Agency at Time of Award
2017 Jeff Clements California Highway Patrol, VENCATT
2013 Todd Wolf California Highway Patrol Southern Division
2012 Robert Baraban Phoenix (AZ) Police Department
2011 Tim Coyle San Diego (CA) Police Department
2010 Gord Elias Royal Canadian Mounted Police – IMPACT – British Columbia
2009 Dennis McNulty Arizona Department of Public Safety
2008 Melissa Norred Yuma (AZ) Police Department
2007 Steve Nowlin Colorado Department of Public Safety
2006 Michael Harris California Highway Patrol Inland Division
2006 Kurt Nester California Highway Patrol Inland Division
2005 Glenda Nissen Pierce County (WA) Sheriffs Department
2005 Kim Triplett Washington State Patrol
2004 John Bier Arizona Rattler Auto Theft Task Force
The Lee S. Cole Award
The Lee S. Cole Award

The 2013 Award was presented at the November 2013 WSATI Training Meeting / Luncheon in Long Beach on November 21, 2013, due to the recipient being unavailable at the time of the 2013 AATIA Seminar. IAATI Western Regional Chapter President Bud Hood came up to the podium to present the annual WRC-IAATI Lee S. Cole Award. Bud then read the 2013 recipient’s nomination and then Bud announced the 2013 WRC-IAATI Lee S. Cole Award recipient was California Highway Patrol Investigator Todd Wolf.

Todd was recognized for an investigation involving a case where an individual was title washing vehicles and obtaining title loans. The estimated loss in this investigation was approximately $240,000.00, (18 vehicles and water craft). The investigation lead to a suspect who was the ring leader in this scam. After conducting a search warrant at the suspect’s place of business, Investigator Wolf discovered the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit was also conducting an investigation and had the suspect in custody. Investigator Wolf met with the IRS and the US Attorney General. Investigator Wolf was invited to join the federal investigation.

The suspect was conducting a fraudulent loan modification business. He would also convince his victims he had a vehicle program that could assist them improve their credit. The suspect or a co-conspirator would bring the victims to several dealerships and purchase 4 to 5 vehicles. The victims were able to keep one of the vehicles as their own. The suspect via the business scam told the victims each vehicle would be paid in full within 6 months including the vehicle they kept for themselves. The suspect would then obtain fraudulent DMV documents to indicate the loan was satisfied and paid in full. These documents were then presented to the DMV. Once the lien holders were removed, the suspect would have coconspirators go to three title loan companies and obtain title loans. Some of the vehicles were title washed a second time and new title loans were obtained. Additional suspects are being investigated was charges are pending.

Because of Investigators Wolf’s hard work, most of the vehicles and water craft have been recovered. Investigator Wolf testified in front of the federal grand jury. Based on his testimony, 27 felony counts were filed against against the suspect for the vehicle theft portion of the investigation. From the two criminal investigations (state and federal), the suspect was looking at 270 years in federal prison if found guilty. He pled to two felony counts and 4 years in federal prison.