Tag: seizures

Customs Seized 10,000 Fake Designer Handbags in Miami

Customs seized fake handbags, for which the value would be nearly $5 million dollars if they were genuine. After the handbags are seized and determined to be counterfeit, CBP can assess a penalty against the importer of counterfeit goods, even if they believed them to be genuine. The penalty is based off the manufacturer’s suggest retail price of the counterfeit merchandise, as if it had been genuine. Therefore, there’s a very strong reason to believe that the person who imported these bags is going to be facing at least a $5 million dollar penalty. Here is an excerpt from the full story:

Customs seizure of counterfeit handbags.
A customs seizure of counterfeit handbags valued at nearly $5 million dollars.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Miami seaport seized 10,788 high-fashion counterfeit Gucci and Coach handbags arriving in a shipment from China on July 15. Had the goods been genuine, the designer handbags would have an estimated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $4,904,160.

CBP officers initially suspected the handbags to be counterfeit since they did not appear to be of the quality consistent with the products normally authorized and manufactured by the trademark holders. CBP import specialists examined samples and confirmed the items to be counterfeit.

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit merchandise. We can help. Typically, we recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full.

Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE). If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles:

CBP Seizes Counterfeits from Traveler from Vietnam

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized a large amount of counterfeit clothing from a traveler that was arriving from Vietnam. To the best of my knowledge, it is a pretty rare occurrence when Customs encounters somebody who is traveling from overseas with a lot of counterfeit clothing.

Typically, counterfeit importations are just subject to seizure. In other words, the ‘penalty’ is loss of the goods through government seizure and forfeiture. However, Customs can impose monetary penalties under 19 USC 1526(f) on “any person who directs, assists … aids and abets [in] the importation of merchandise for sale or public distribution” once the property is seized.

By bringing in such a large quantity of counterfeits this person may have exposed themselves to a monetary penalty (to the tune of the MSRP of $22,000) because Customs may presume that the large quantities means that is must have been intended for sale or public distribution. It could be that it was meant for public sale or distribution, or it could just be that all these articles were intended for personal use and the buyer just got carried away with buying them. Here’s the story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport seized 220 clothing items with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of just over $22,000 found in a passenger’s checked luggage.

CBP officers conducted an inspection of a passenger arriving from Vietnam with six checked bags and discovered multiple clothing items in commercial quantities that appeared to be counterfeit, violating intellectual property rights.

The counterfeit items included 82 different Adidas products ranging from tank tops to windbreakers, 36 different Abercrombie items, 65 Chanel pieces, 12 Nike sweatshirts, 15 Ralph Lauren items, and an assortment of other name brand designers. The seized items did not appear to be of the quality consistent with legitimate goods as the items included unusual lettering and labeling and the markings on the clothing were not manufactured by the trademark holders.

“Counterfeit items even in small quantities is an IPR violation and adversely affects unsuspecting consumers, businesses and our economy,” said Port Director Cleatus Hunt. “This type of seizure typically occurs through other commercial shipping means, however, we will take any opportunity to intercept the smuggling of counterfeit goods. This seizure in the airport environment represents our commitment to enforcing priority trade issues.”

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit merchandise. We can help. Typically, we recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full.

Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles:

CBP JFK Seizes $700k in Counterfeit Monetary Instruments

Just the other day we blogged about a counterfeit currency seizure at an express cargo facility at JFK Airport. Today, there is another story which involves counterfeit bank checks and money orders (also falling under the “monetary instrument” category).

In this instance, they were from the Ivory Coast and were transmitted in an envelope labeled “Documents.” What follows is an excerpt:

Counterfeit Monetary Instruments
Counterfeit Monetary Instruments

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at John F. Kennedy International seized counterfeit monetary instruments at an express cargo facility.

On March 27, CBP officers seized counterfeit bank checks and money orders arriving from Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) totaling a little more than $700,000.

CBP officers examined a shipment described as “Documents” finding one envelope inside containing bank money orders and checks labeled Chase, Bank of America and Western Federal Credit Union in the denominations of $965, $985 and $2,920. A review of the bank money orders and checks lacked the necessary security features consistent with those of legitimate monetary instruments.

A combined 516 bank money orders and checks were counted with a total value of $732,585.00.

“CBP Officers are protecting the American public from various dangers on a daily basis,” said Robert E. Perez, Director of CBP’s New York Field Operations. “The interception of these counterfeit bank checks in a one-week period is a direct reflection of the vigilance and commitment to mission success by our CBP Officers daily.”

No arrests have been made at this time and the investigation is ongoing.

If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit. Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP

Wrong Turn in Detroit Results in Customs Seizure, Arrest

The news release below describes a fairly common occurrence; the wrong turn. I’ve had client’s make a wrong turn only to inadvertently end up at a border crossing and have their money confiscated by Customs for failure to file a report. In the case below, the guy who made the wrong turn had a couple of guns on him, which of course resulted in more than a civil seizure:

DETROIT- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) Officers assigned to the Fort Street Cargo Facility arrested a man and seized three weapons during an examination this past weekend.

On January 17, 2015 a 58 year old Florida resident, made a wrong turn in a commercial truck onto the Ambassador Bridge and ended up on Customs Money Seizurethe Canadian side of the border. The man declared three weapons a .45 caliber hand gun, 12 gauge shotgun and .38 caliber revolver.

The individual was returned to the U.S. by Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) escort. CBP learned through computer databases, that the man has a criminal history for felony convictions involving carrying concealed weapons and drug possession.

“Our cooperation with CBSA is vital in taking prohibited and illegal weapons off the streets of our communities,” stated Roderick Blanchard, Detroit Port Director. “Teamwork such as this leads to positive outcomes for everyone.”

The man was arrested and turned over to ICE Homeland Security Investigations Task Force Officers along with the seized weapons. The man is facing State of Michigan charges for being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

If you made a wrong turn into the clutches of U.S. Customs and had your money or property seized, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page (see our case results here). We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles about money seizures by customs:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 2

Importing counterfeit merchandise into into the United States is not only illegal, but is something that U.S. Customs & Border Protection takes very seriously. Intercepting counterfeits is considered it to be a priority trade enforcement issue. For truly counterfeit imported merchandise, there are few opportunities to get the seizure remitted (to get the merchandise back from customs), and so it is forfeited (becomes property of the government). We discussed this Part I of Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties. But, forfeiture is often just the beginning of the story, because customs can and does penalize people for importing counterfeit merchandise.

When does customs issue a notice of penalty for importing counterfeits?

As matter of policy, customs issues a penalty when 3 criteria are met:

  1. The counterfeit mark is registered with the Patent and Trademark Office
  2. The counterfeit mark recorded with U.S. Customs & Border Protection
  3. The importer has no consent from the trademark holder to import the counterfeits

In all other situations, customs has the authority to issue a penalty, but may or may not, even if the merchandise is seized. It depends on the individual circumstances of the case.

What is a notice of penalty and who is liable?

The notice of penalty is sent from the Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture’s Office of U.S. Custom & Border Protection through the U.S. mail, usually certified. The notice of penalty is typically a 1 to 2 page document, that states what law or laws or regulations were allegedly violated, and based on the violation, it demands payment of a certain dollar amount.

The importer and anyone who causes, directs, or assists the importation (financially or otherwise) is liable to get the notice of penalty.

How is the penalty amount determined?

The penalty dollar amount is usually based on the maximum amount that customs can levy under the law for counterfeit violations; they are are not based on the price actually paid for the goods, but on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (“MSRP”) of the goods if they were genuine:

  • 1st Offense: the penalty is equal to up to the MSRP of genuine goods
  • 2nd (or more) Offense: the penalty is equal to twice the MSRP of genuine goods

For example, if you are importing counterfeit jeans that cost $5 each, but which have a MSRP for genuine jeans of  $95, customs customs uses the $95 price in its calculation. In this example, if 100 pairs of jeans were imported, the penalty for a 1st offense is up to $9,500 (not $500). For a 2nd offense, the penalty is up to $19,000 (not $500 or $1,00).

Does customs ever reduce a penalty?

You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

A failure to pay the penalty, or the mitigated penalty, will result in the referral of the matter for collection through the U.S. attorney. Customs may sue the importer or the person providing assistance in federal court and get a judgment against them. This allows the government to lien property, garnish assets and bank accounts, and seize property to satisfy the judgment.

Obviously, the best course of action is to file a petition, get a reduced penalty, and pay it.

Is there a way to reduce the penalty from customs?

Keep Calm Petition MemeYes, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs, it is possible for a penalty reduction of anywhere from 10% to 30% for a first or second offense. There would have to mitigating and no aggravating factors to achieve that result.

A standard disposition with aggravating factors, or for a third offense, may still garner a reduction of 50% to 80%, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs.

It is possible, and our law firm has been able to obtain complete cancellation of the penalty even in cases where there are still grounds for a technical violation of the law (some history of our success is HERE). Of course, results will vary from case to case, and no result could be guaranteed. Customs has maintains a list of mitigating factors and aggravating factors that it looks for, and which should part of the argument and analysis of any petition that is filed for them; without a careful and thoughtful analysis of those factors that customs looks for, you may end up pay more than necessary.

If you have had your merchandise seized or have received a notice of penalty from customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer about the possibility of getting your penalty reduced, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions and in penalty cases by customs nationwide.

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1

Often, people and businesses can knowingly or unknowingly import counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States. The majority of these types of importations we encounter for clients are Internet purchases from China, such as purses, videos/DVDs, guitars, clothing,  electronics and accessories, but they can really be any type of product and from any country. Sometimes people know the merchandise is counterfeit but other times they do not have any suspicion, or in some circumstances truly know that what they are importing is not counterfeit. Even if ignorant about the merchandise being counterfeit, if it really is counterfeit then the property is still subject to seizure and forfeiture by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

What is a counterfeit or trademark violation?

Counterfeit merchandise is merchandise that “bears a trade-mark owned by [someone in] the United States, and registered in the . . . [Patent and Trademark Office].” The counterfeit mark can be on the “merchandise, or the label, sign, print, package, wrapper, or receptacle” itself. 19 USC 1526(a). A counterfeit mark is a spurious trademark that is identical to, or substantially indistinguishable from, a registered trademark. 19 CFR 133.21(a). If you do not have permission of the trademark owner to import the merchandise, it’s illegal to import it.

Because the counterfeit merchandise is illegal, it is subject to seizure and forfeiture by U.S. Customs & Border Protection under most circumstances (usually it must also be recorded with CBP per 19 CFR 133.21(b)). 19 USC 1526(b) and (e). This means that customs can take the suspected counterfeit merchandise and destroy it, or if they can obliterate the counterfeit marks and get the consent of the trademark owner, then customs can give it to charity, give it to a government agency for its own use, or sell it at public auction.

Is it possible to get the seized merchandise released?

Before customs can destroy the counterfeit/trademark violations, give it away, or sell it, they must first give the importer a chance to respond. Since October 2015, at the time of detention or even after seizure, the importer has a right to request samples of seized merchandise from CBP. After merchandise is seized, Customs through its Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures (FP&F) office, will send a “notice of seizure” of the counterfeit merchandise to the importer of record. The importer then has several options, among those are the ability to file a petition for remission of forfeiture with FP&F. In this petition, the importer has opportunity to demonstrate that there are no counterfeit/trademark violations involved with the import of the merchandise.

Alternatively, the importer could argue in the petition for remission to customs that some exception to seizure and forfeiture applies. If the importer can prove that the goods are not counterfeit, then the seizure would be remitted and the merchandise released to the custody of the importer. A similar result is possible in certain other circumstances, like if they are permitted genuine, gray market goods, or are for personal use and accompanying a traveler entering the U.S., or if the trademark owner consents to the importation and the counterfeit marks are destroyed.

My merchandise was seized and forfeited as counterfeit. Am I in any other trouble?

If you have merchandise seized by customs and either lose your opportunity to get the merchandise back, abandon the merchandise, or ignore the notice of seizure, it may not be the end of trouble for the importer. In general, customs has the authority to fine or penalize anyone who violates the laws enforced by customs. This means that, weeks or months after the property is seized and forfeited, you may get notice of penalty in the mail from customs that demands payment of thousands of dollars in penalties! It could also mean you get a letter from the trademark holder threatening you with further legal action.

In Part 2 of this series, we discuss when and how customs can assess a monetary penalty after the counterfeit property is seized and forfeited.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs seizures nationwide.

Customs intellectual property enforcement through product seizures

Customs, like any other organization, sets goals and runs campaigns. In recent years there has been a focus on counterfeits, and products that infringe on trademarks, patents, or other forms of intellectual property. I know some folks who says customs doesn’t do enough in this regard. Nevertheless, touting its recent prowess in stopping a portion of the large amounts  of infringing goods flooding across the border, Customs recently released some news about its efforts for the 2013 fiscal year.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations today announced the comprehensive results of ongoing efforts to protect America from the illicit trade in counterfeit and pirated goods during Fiscal Year 2013. [ . . . ]

The number of [intellectual property rights] seizures increased nearly 7% from 22,848 in FY 2012 to 24,361 in FY 2013. The [manufacturer’s suggested retail price] of seized goods increased from $1.26 billion in FY 2012 to $1.74 billion in FY 2013 [Editor’s Note: this is the price of the counterfeit goods as if they were not counterfeit]. DHS averaged slightly over 66 seizures per day, with an average MSRP of each seizure being slightly more than $71,500.

“Together with our [intellectual property rights] partners, CBP continues to guard the nation’s borders against counterfeit products,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “These products are not only unsafe and dangerous to consumers, but they also pose a threat to the economic security of our country.” 

“These numbers are the result of the hard work of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security and the increased collaboration of our agencies through the IPR Center,” said ICE’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas S. Winkowski. “But a great deal more has to be done to protect the public from the health and safety threat that counterfeits pose to our society. We will continue to pursue these criminals and educate the public about the real threats that intellectual property crimes pose.”

[ . . . ] Consumers are reminded to remain vigilant when making online purchases. [Editor’s Note: Internet purchasers are responsible for their imports complying with the law!]

[ . . . ] Collaboration through the IPR Center led to 692 arrests, 401 criminal indictments, and 451 criminal convictions for criminal IPR infringement activities in FY 2013.

While the People’s Republic of China remains the primary source economy for counterfeit and pirated goods seized, with a total value of $1.1 billion, representing 68% of all IPR seizures by MSRP in FY 2013, DHS made seizures from 73 additional economies during FY 2013, including Hong Kong, India, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

CBP is committed to seeking global solutions to the global trafficking in counterfeit and pirated goods. Notably, CBP engaged in a joint enforcement operation with China resulting in the removal of 243,000 items trading between the countries, and also concluded joint enforcement operations with France and Germany.

CBP and HSI protect businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive IPR enforcement program. CBP targets and seizes imports of counterfeit and pirated goods, and enforces exclusion orders on patent-infringing and other IPR violative goods.

More statistical data is available by clicking HERE.

Importing infringing items into the United States is a very serious matter. First, it is very likely that after seizure the property will be forfeited and destroyed by the U.S. government if, in fact, they are infringing on someone’s intellectual property. Once forfeiture is perfected, the person who caused the importation will probably get a notice of penalty from U.S. Custom & Border Protection in the mail based on the maximum penalty the law allows for the type of violation.

The person will have a chance to respond to customs’ notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to reduce the penalty based on the presence of certain mitigating factors that customs particularly looks for. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. If the person fails to pay the penalty, the government may bring a lawsuit against them in federal district court to recover the penalty in the form of a judgment, after which point the government can lien property, garnish bank accounts, and seize property.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.

We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide.

U.S. Customs Counterfeit Seizure & Penalty; Fake Purses

KFox14’s website has a recent story about a a counterfeit purse seizure by customs with a value of around $12,000. We have previously written articles on trademark infringement gray market goods and trademark infringement, which can help you understand the process more.

The story AVAILABLE HERE on KFox14’s website, in part, says:

In January, 39 Michael Kors purses suspected of being counterfeit were seized at an El Paso port of entry. The purses were part of an international shipment from Hong Kong that was selected for inspection. Officers who were examining the shipment identified the suspect bags and they were turned over to members of the CBP Intellectual Property Branch for further review, officials said.

 

[ . . . ]

The purses were found to be of poor quality compared to what the brand was known for despite having nearly identical markings, officials said. A notice of seizure was given to the consignee of the shipment on March 10. The value of the seized handbags was estimated at $12,285.

Importing counterfeit items into the United States is a very serious matter. First, it is very likely that after seizure the property will be forfeited and destroyed by the U.S. government if, in fact, they are counterfeit. Once forfeiture is perfected, the person who caused the importation will probably get a notice of penalty from U.S. Custom & Border Protection in the mail for a minimum of $12,285, or the equivalent of the value of the products if they were real. That is what the law says.

The person will have a chance to respond to customs’ notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to reduce the penalty based on the presence of certain mitigating factors that customs particularly looks for. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. If the person fails to pay the penalty, the government bring a lawsuit against them in federal district court to recover the penalty in the form of a judgment, after which point the government can lien property, garnish bank accounts, and seize property.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.

We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide.

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.