SPANISH FORK — A convoy of used cars bound for Guatemala snarled rush-hour traffic on southbound I-15 for more than an hour Tuesday.

Seventeen vehicles were traveling at speeds below 40 miles per hour, backing up traffic on the freeway, said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Rich Christianson.

Some of the vehicles towed one car. Other cars were pulling two.

The drivers of the vehicles would occasionally pull over to allow traffic to pass but would soon re-enter the freeway and create more problems, police said.

It was during one of those breaks, just south of the University Parkway I-15 exit in Orem, that UHP troopers arrived to investigate.

Numerous patrol cars and a translator went to the scene. The caravan of cars continued to impede the flow of traffic as drivers slowed down to look.

Officers eventually escorted the group to the next exit, Center Street in Provo.

"It's a group from Guatemala that flies up here, purchases salvage vehicles at an auction, then tows them back and sells them for a profit," he said.

Drivers had all the proper paperwork to be in the country, but Christianson they committed a number of other violations.

"They've ripped the rear bumpers off some of the vehicles and put a hitch on them, some of the air bags are deployed, and they had all four tires of the towed vehicles on the ground," he said.

Christianson explained that any vehicle towed on all four tires must be properly licensed and registered, otherwise it must be on a trailer. None of the towed vehicles were on trailers, and none was were properly registered.

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Many still had the license plates of previous owners on them.

Through a translator, troopers explained the laws to the drivers.

Christianson said citations for impeding traffic and improper stopping on the freeway were issued. The group was allowed to continue driving on I-15.

Improper towing is not usually punished by impounding, he said.

"As far as our state law is concerned, they have all the permits they need," Christianson said. "They have tow bars, and they have lights attached to all the towed vehicles."


E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com