US Customs takes break from crushing Skylines, returns stolen Ferrari [UPDATE]

Update: A spokesperson from US Customs and Border Protection told Autoblog more details about the case. The thieves "completely removed the '81 VIN, and changed it to the '82 VIN," the spokesperson said. "The true VIN was identified through secondary numbers."

US Customs and Border Protection often gets a bad rap among auto enthusiasts for the agency's propensity to crush fun cars, including Minis, Land Rovers, and Skyline GT-Rs. However, the group also sometimes finds stolen classic vehicles just before they leave the country. For example, officers recently recovered a stolen Ferrari nearly 30 years after the owner reported it stolen.

The 308 GTSi was on its way to Poland from the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport on April 8th, but the officers found something fishy. This Ferrari was supposed to be a 1982 308 GTS, but running a check indicated that the coupe with that VIN left the US for Norway in 2005. "This VIN discrepancy is what 'raised a red flag' and prompted further scrutiny," CBP LA/LB Seaport Port Director Carlos Martel said in a statement.

The CBP contacted the California Highway Patrol and the National Insurance Crime Bureau. A Ferrari expert eventually identified the car as a 1981 308 GTSi. Once the authorities obtained the correct VIN, the system listed the Ferrari as stolen from a consignment lot in Orange County, CA, on July 19, 1987.

Unfortunately, the original owner doesn't get to enjoy having the Ferrari back. The Prancing Horse now belongs to the insurance company because it paid off the claim on the car decades ago. It might be worth trying to buy the Ferrari again, though. The red 308 GTSi still looks like a beauty in CBP's photo, and coupe has only covered 45,000 miles since 1981.
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Stolen 28 Years Ago, CBP Seizes Classic Red Hot Ferrari

Release Date: April 14, 2016
"Red Flag" Prompts FEAR Team Scrutiny

LOS ANGELES — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Los Angeles/Long Beach (LA/LB) Seaport complex intercepted and seized a red 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi, destined to Poland, on April 8. It was stolen 28 years ago, has 45K miles and an estimated value of $50K.

red 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi seized by CBP
CBP officers at LA/LB seaport seized this 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi, destined to Poland. It was stolen 28 years ago.

Falsely manifested as a "1982 Ferrari", analysis of its purported vehicle identification number (VIN) revealed that the VIN was previously used for a 1982 Ferrari 308 GTS exported in 2005, from the U.S. to Norway via Germany.

"This VIN discrepancy is what 'raised a red flag' and prompted further scrutiny. Such keen attention to details by CBP officers is commendable, especially considering they process a daily average of 500 vehicles intended for export," said CBP LA/LB Seaport Port Director Carlos Martel.

In partnership with the California Highway Patrol-Investigative Services Unit Investigator and National Insurance Crime Bureau Special Agent assigned to the Foreign Export and Recovery (FEAR) Outbound Team, a Ferrari factory expert assisted with identifying the 1981 Ferrari. In actuality, this Ferrari's original VIN was changed to that of the previously exported car's VIN.

Its real VIN led to a police report showing that this Ferrari was stolen from a car consignment lot in Orange County, Calif., on July 19, 1987. The owner was compensated by his insurance company back then and wishes to remain anonymous.

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