Dallas cops are trying to sort through a Texas-sized mystery: Why was a registered sex offender caught speeding in a fake police cruiser that was reportedly used by a repo company to conduct its business?

Malcolm "Frank" Hawkinson, a 39-year-old registered sex offender, was pulled over on Interstate 20 Wednesday, driving what appeared to be a Dallas police cruiser at upwards of 95 mph, said Dep. Michael Ortiz, a spokesman for the Dallas County Sheriff's Department.

The deputy initially thought the squad car was real, but as the vehicle passed by carrying two passengers in plain clothes, the officer changed his mind.

"He got a better look at the insignia, and it just didn't look like anything he had ever seen before. It didn't look real," Ortiz said. "So he got behind it, decided to pull it over."

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When Hawkinson presented the deputy with a business card that said "Dallas County Investigations" and invalid insurance and registration, the deputy searched the vehicle.

He found a trove of shockers: fake cameras on the dashboard and ceiling, a "squad car radio" that was really a police scanner tuned to the deputy's channel, a toy BB-gun pistol and empty magazine, handcuffs and official paperwork that appeared to be legitimate, but had no reference to any state, Ortiz said.

The deputy arrested Hawkinson on misdemeanor road-violation charges. And that's when things got interesting.

"The owner of the vehicle showed up a little later to try to take possession of the vehicle. He did admit to putting the stickers — the insignia and all the lettering on the vehicle — but he's saying it's for the safety of the employees," Ortiz said.

The vehicle's owner — whose name has been withheld — said the three men operated a repo business and having police insignia on their cars made it easier to repossess automobiles.

"Everything about that vehicle would lead you to believe that it is a police squad car," Ortiz said. "The lettering used on our squad car says 'Sheriff' or 'Dallas Sheriff' on it. In the same font size, same lettering, theirs said 'Dallas, Texas.'"

The owner told police that he had reworked his car because other repo companies were doing the same thing.

"That kind of poses the question of where are these companies?" Ortiz said.

Police would like to know. They're asking anyone who's seen phony police cars in the Dallas area to come forward.

The local district attorney is weighing other possible charges, including impersonation, against Hawkinson, who according to the Texas Department of Public Safety's Crime Records Service Web site was convicted in 2001 of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl.

"We want to know exactly what these two guys were up to," Ortiz said.

"We actually have to prove their intent is what we have to do," he added. "We have to have someone come forward and say 'Hey, they did identify themselves to me as a police officer and then we can go from there.'"

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