• 176
Smugglers Disguising Cars As Official Vehicles To Move Drugs

Last week, Arizona Border Patrol agents seized a truck sporting perfect U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decals. Instead of the usual tools of the trade usually found in the bed, however, agents found $1.6 million worth of marijuana, according to KEYE TV.

The act of "cloning" vehicles -- almost perfectly altering a car so it looks as though it belongs to the government or a company -- has been on the rise over the past couple of years. Smugglers will "clone" almost anything and use it as a means to transport drugs or other illegal items. Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor of Victoria County in South Texas told KEYE TV he's seen everything from fake Haliburton tankers and DirecTV trucks to almost perfectly disguised police cars and even school busses complete with dummies.

Law enforcement officials don't know how many "cloned" vehicles are on the road, since, if they're properly done, they're basically impossible to nab. Hawk-eyed agents and officers have been able to stop a number of them, however, as minor flaws can give them away. One of the first encounters with a "cloned" vehicle happened back in 2006, according to Homeland Security Today. Agents only uncovered the true identity of a Border Patrol van when they noticed that there was "a tell-tale letter 'H,' instead of the letter 'P' that's in the displayed serial number used to differentiate Border Patrol vans from its Jeep Wranglers."

Criminals have been caught with cloned vehicles due to errors in spelling, too. A official-looking law enforcement truck was pulled over when agents saw it was labeled "Border Patron," according to KEYE TV.

Used car shoppers beware

Criminals are using similar cloning techniques to cover their tracks after they've stolen a car. The VIN of the stolen vehicle -- which is usually a luxury car or loaded SUV, according to the FBI -- is ripped off and replaced with a different VIN, usually belonging to a car of the same make and model, but from a different state. The car is then stuffed with additional phony ownership documents. After the transformation is complete, the car can easily be registered and sold in a new state.

It's important to be on the lookout for these cloned vehicles if you're shopping for a used car, as there are potentially huge ramifications if you find yourself in possession of one. For starters, if the cloned car is discovered for what it truly is, it will be confiscated and you'll be responsible for any outstanding loan payments you may have on it. You could also be accused of any lawbreaking for which owner of the original VIN is responsible, such as unpaid parking or speeding tickets. If this happens, you could spend a lot of time and money trying to prove that lawbreaking wasn't you.

The FBI has a few tips for staying clear of car cloning and the issues that come along with it:

- If you think your car was cloned (for instance, you receive notice of unpaid parking tickets that aren't yours), contact your local police.

- If you're car shopping, beware of a car being sold for substantially less than comparable makes and models.

- Get a copy of the car's vehicle history report.

- Check out the VIN plate on the dashboard for any evidence of tampering (scratches, etc.).

- Look for incorrect spellings on the car's paperwork.

- Trust your intuition. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 176 Comments
      ggmac9
      • 8 Months Ago
      SEEMS, MOST PEOPLE ARE GETTING TOO SMART FOR THEIR PRITCHES AND ALL FOR NO GOOD REASON. CAN ONLY ADD TO THE SPIRAL WE ARE ON IN SO MANY AREAS.
      gordonrobroy
      • 8 Months Ago
      so the authorities think the public is going to notice the vin tag on a bogus utilities truck or military unit or uhaul truck-----lets foment some more hysteria---we gotta check the carfax----get real---the dopers arent selling their transportation because there may be some evidence in it----the meth cookers habitually burn the trailer they cook in because cases have been made on fingerprints and other stuff left behind---
      nabbjb0998
      • 8 Months Ago
      While you folks are making comments about the make of the vehicle, drug runners just ran 50 more vehicles under your noses.
      wforacingdk
      • 8 Months Ago
      How stupid do you need to be thinking a Ford F250 is a Jeep.. Stevie Wonder could tell you it was a pickup...
        William
        • 8 Months Ago
        @wforacingdk
        This is the result of the liberals getting into the skool system. Just think what common core will do.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Come one, come all! Libs love you!
        bdgrizcp
        • 8 Months Ago
        You do realize how ignorant and offensive your comment is to someone, like me, who had immigrants in their families, right?. My mother's family all came from Itally in the early 1900s. She was born here in the US. They worked hard, raised families and had to fight attitudes like yours. The anti-immigration clique is part of the problem because they offer no solutions. They have none. They are racist to a certain extent. And they offer nothing to fix the real issues that drive immigration. Oh, and if you partake of illegal drugs, you really are part of the problem.
          liz
          • 8 Months Ago
          @bdgrizcp
          -
          Kellie
          • 8 Months Ago
          @bdgrizcp
          You are sadly mistaken, people like me and "hello beautiful" are not anti immigration only anti illegal immigration. Get it right.
          • 8 Months Ago
          @bdgrizcp
          You realize his comment is a critique on the Democrat party's policy of a lack of border security, unwillingness to hold lawbreakers accountable, and their desire to grant carte blanche amnesty regardless of background, criminal status, or circumstance, right? To imply his/her comment is racist simply because they questions a political party's motivation is wreckless and naive. It appears to be a tongue-in-cheek comment that "libs" will welcome you without question.. even if you are a cartel member hauling drugs! Finally, your straw-man arguement of supposed drug use by "Hello" is valid but potentially misdirected and is unfair.
      Jaydizzog
      • 8 Months Ago
      another reason to close the borders and deport illegals.
      • 8 Months Ago
      the illegals are worse for the country more so than the illegal drugs
      Elizabeth
      • 8 Months Ago
      The plural of bus is buses. Who writes this stuff?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Ooh pot! How scary! Who cares?!! Go bust the cocaine traffickers. And it's so hypocritical of the media to report on legalizing it one moment and then dramatizing a pot "drug" bust the next. A joke!
      lemmonherk
      • 8 Months Ago
      "... and even school busses [sic] complete with dummies." "Busses", spelled with three esses, means "kisses", as in "He busses his wife every morning before leaving for work." If you mean "vehicles carrying students", that would be "buses", with only two esses. Yes, just like "abuses" without the letter A.
        bluezwmn
        • 8 Months Ago
        @lemmonherk
        Well, maybe, but both Miriam-Webster and Oxford (American) list both spellings, so as far as I'm concerned...they're right, you're wrong. I suppose that's what you get for being so pedantic and commenting off-topic.
      • 8 Months Ago
      People asking others to learn english, then showing their second grade level here , how stupid is that
      • 8 Months Ago
      Mexico would make such a good parking lot.
        dgoffnspector
        • 8 Months Ago
        You should move there, and collect the parking fees.
        CHUCK
        • 8 Months Ago
        Actually, we need to make Mexico a state. They are coming by the thousands anyhow with out penalty. Yes, they come South and Central America also. After they have all moved here we can go there and make it the great nation that this one used to be.
          thinkernotreactor
          • 8 Months Ago
          @CHUCK
          Why don't you and softpaul just go now. We won't miss you.
          sfttailpaul
          • 8 Months Ago
          @CHUCK
          Spot right on Chuck! I'm with you and am seeking a 5 acre parcel in Costa Rica or where ever! Even Brazil is looking promising but we must get the Panama Canal back in our reenue stream. Lots, no tons of money there to be made, after all, we set the whole thing up. That revenue is enough to feed our nation! Not really but close...
    • Load More Comments