Why An Insurance Company Is Suing The FBI For Crashing a Ferrari

James Bond never had this problem when he totaled an Aston Martin

Did you hear the one about the FBI agent who crashed a stolen-then-recovered Ferrari into a tree?

Except, there's no punch line. Because, while it may be fodder for an avalanche of wisecracks, this isn't a party joke, or a scene from "Get Smart."

It really happened, according to court documents. A Michigan insurance company is suing both the FBI and the Justice Department in order to get their hands on some records to find out more about how the crash occurred.

This long, strange saga began in 2003, when the 1995 Ferrari F50, valued at $750,000, was stolen from a dealership in Rosemont, Penn. The dealership submitted a claim to Motors Insurance Corp., in suburban Detroit, which had insured the vehicle.

Motors Insurance paid the claim and assumed ownership of the still-missing Ferrari.

Fast-forward to August 2008, when the FBI and local police found the Ferrari in Kentucky. The FBI stored the Ferrari in a warehouse while it investigated the theft and eventually prosecuted the car thief, according to the lawsuit filed in late February in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Then, in May of 2009, according to the suit, an FBI special agent, accompanied by an assistant U.S. Attorney, took the vehicle for a drive, for reasons still unknown: A surreptitious joy ride? Or merely transporting it to another location? That's what Motors Insurance would like to find out. So far, the FBI isn't talking or giving details. Motors Insurance did not state that it suspects the joy-ride scenarios.

But within only a few seconds of pulling out of the warehouse, the agent lost control of the vehicle, which then "fishtailed and slid sideways," went over a curb, plowed through some bushes and crashed into a small tree.

Motors Insurance submitted a claim to the FBI and Justice Department for the $750,000.
The federal agencies denied that claim last March, arguing the crash "took place while the Ferrari was being detained by the FBI," according to the lawsuit.

Motors Insurance filed a second claim, known as a "request for reconsideration." But that request was also rejected.

Chagrined, the insurance company last October submitted requests under the Freedom of Information Act for "any documents relating to the use, custody, possession, storage or transportation" of the Ferrari -- and any documents related to the crash itself.

One request was denied by the Bureau, which claimed a federal exemption. Another was not answered at all.

However, according to the lawsuit, the insurance company did get one reply that cited an e-mail from Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Hamilton Thompson from May 27, 2009, the day of the crash.

That e-mail confirmed that Thompson took a short ride in the Ferrari with the FBI agent, and noted that that the agent lost control of the vehicle, cleared the curb and ended up against the tree, said the suit.

"The Justice Department will review the complaint and make a determination as to how we will ultimately respond," said spokesman Chris Miller.

Motors Insurance declined to comment on its lawsuit.

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