A CBP stolen vehicle seizure story proves that customs law isn’t always about currency seizures, product classification, country of origin marking, and trademark infringement. Sometime’s it’s about far less probable occurrences, like this interesting story from customs. The story is similar to one that previously occurred in the Port of Detroit about a 1965 VW Bug that was being exported, which was allegedly stolen at some point in the distant past. I share this story because it’s interesting and allows me to share with the public some of CBP’s own policy for stolen vehicle seizures.
CBP probably seized these vehicles for violations 19 USC 1627a, which covers the knowing exportation of certain stolen vehicles which also carries a $10,000 penalty under 19 CFR 192.3. The story does not tell us much about the exporter, but because the car was stolen more than 46 years ago, I seriously doubt the he knew the car was stolen. And if the exporter did not know the car was stolen, customs own guidelines state that the seized car can be returned to the to the person who obtained an ownership interest in good faith and without awareness of the theft. The story and comments below:
LOS ANGELES— U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in officers in partnership with a National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Special Agent and a California Highway Patrol-Investigative Services Unit
Investigator assigned to the Foreign Export and Recovery (FEAR) outbound team at the Los Angeles/Long Beach (LA/LB) seaport complex, recently recovered and seized five automobiles ranging from 47 years old to brand new.
Stolen 46 years ago in New York, in a container en route to the Netherlands, a white, two door 1967 Jaguar XKE convertible was discovered and ordered returned. When only a year old, that British sports car was taken from its residence between 11:15 p.m. on March 13, 1968, and 7:50 a.m. the following morning. It was a bullet grey color then, valued at $5,000. Today, in fair condition, it is worth about $23,600; others in better condition can fetch near $100K.
The collectible will be reunited with its excited owner who lives in Florida now and remarked over the phone, “This is just a miracle, a miracle. I was 36 years old then and now I’m 82. It was my first good car and favorite. It’s a wonderful car. I used to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning on either Saturday or Sunday and drive it 90 to 100 (mph) on the highway in New York. It was good for the engine in a car like that. I bought it brand new. I had it less than a year. I’m going to restore it. And, if anyone asks, I’ll tell them I’m very proud of my government.”
The four other cars seized are a stolen 1969 blue Chevrolet Corvette, and fraudulently obtained 1976 light brown and 2007 white Mercedes models 280 and E350, respectively and 2014 red Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
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 Europe was surprised at the seizure. There could be some penalties in their future. If so, they should get a customs lawyer because they have a great chance of getting the car back by making a legal argument for its return through a petition for remission filed with the local FP&F Officer.
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.