Ricardo Magallanes was driving from his home in Juárez, Mexico to the University of Texas El Paso when Border Patrol guards searched his car and found duffel bags bulging with marijuana in the trunk. Magallanes had been targeted by drug smugglers who, once they gained access to his car using Ford's key cut codes, planted drugs meant for nationwide distribution. Now he is suing the automaker for allowing the codes to fall into the wrong hands.
Key cut codes are used by automakers to create copies of keys. If an owner loses or damages their original set of keys, a dealership or locksmith can look up the key code in a database to make a duplicate by using the car's VIN. Ford is being accused of playing fast and loose with these codes -- so much so that drug smugglers could access thousands of records.
The El Paso Times reported Magallanes was arrested and held for three months after he was caught in 2010. Charges were only dropped after federal authorities busted the ring of smugglers.
Now he says Ford owes him actual damages, lost wages, mental anguish, lost earnings and punitive damages due to its negligence. Magallanes is arguing that the lynchpin to the smugglers plan was the easy access to Ford key cut codes.
Ford claims they are not responsible for the legal woes of their customers, but rather the person who accessed the codes and the smugglers themselves.
Out of five victims of the same smuggling ring, all but one of them drove a Ford. The key cut codes were traced to a single user account at a Dallas car dealership. That user accessed more than 5,000 codes in an 18-month period, including the codes for each car caught with marijuana at the border. Thousands of these codes belong to Ford vehicles registered all over the U.S., meaning multiple sources could be pulling from the same account, making the culprit untraceable.