CBP Recovers Stolen Vehicle After 40 Years

Customs law and this blog isn’t always about currency seizures, product classification, country of origin marking, trademark infringement. Sometime’s it’s about far less probable occurrences, like this cool story from customs, with some pictures available care of the article on the same topic at the local news. Another news outlet found the owner, who tells his side of the story… be sure to scroll down and read the story below.

Detroit – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Detroit recovered a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle nearly 40 years after it was reported stolen from Knoxville, Tennessee.

The vehicle was being shipped from Michigan to Finland. When the vehicle and its documents were examined on January 30, CBP officers learned the Volkswagen was reported stolen in 1974. Agents from the National Insurance Crime Bureau worked with CBP to confirm that the vehicle matched the information reported to Knoxville Police nearly 40 years ago.

“Part of safeguarding our nation is to make sure that all exports are legitimate and lawful,” said Acting Port Director Marty Raybon. “Recovering a vehicle reported stolen 40 years ago is a testament to the vigilance and attention to detail on the part of CBP.”

Odd Onion has a story from the original owner of the care, who produced a copy of the title and tells the story of the day it was stolen! Here are some excerpts, but read the full story HERE.

On Friday, [the owner Joseph] MacDonald showed WBIR-TV the title for the car, which he said he purchased in 1973 while studying at the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville.

“I knew exactly where I had parked it, right on Highland Avenue, and when we came back there was just an empty spot there. Just poof. It just vanished,” he told the station.

After reviewing photos released by federal border officials, MacDonald said he was sure the car is his stolen Beetle.

“She’s got a new paint job, the same top. I know that’s the bumpers. That’s original bumpers. And that top stayed down. It didn’t matter how cold it was,” he told WBIR-TV.

Stolen VW Beetle

“I had always hoped to be reunited with that thing. I’ve actually told my youngest daughter about that car and she said, ‘Boy I wish you still had it,’ and I said, ‘I do too. I loved it.’ And I never dreamed in my wildest dreams that I might get it back.” 

The Knoxville Police Department told the station MacDonald will have to present the title to investigators in order to get the car back.

Given that it was stolen more than 40 years and has probably passed through several different owners, I am willing to bet the current owner of the vehicle and whoever was going to be receiving it in Finland was surprised at the seizure. There could be some penalties in their future. If so, they should get a lawyer.

If you have a customs problem like this or any of the other customs violations our customs law firm handles, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page.