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TRAP Case File: The Classifieds

Richard was looking for a good deal on a used car so he started reading the classified ads. After several weeks, he found a listing for a 1993 Honda Accord. The vehicle was listed as being for sale below blue book value.

Richard called the telephone number listed and it was a pager, so Richard left a message. Moments later the phone rang. The male caller identified himself as Gary. Richard and Gary agreed to meet the next day to view the Honda.

The following day Richard found the Honda Accord parked unattended in a parking lot. After 10 minutes, a male walked up to Richard and introduced himself as Gary and said he was selling the Honda. Gary allowed Richard to inspect the Honda and take it for a test drive. Satisfied the vehicle was a good buy, Richard purchased the Honda for $6,800 cash and received the vehicle’s title. As Richard looked at the title, he saw "Salvage" imprinted on it. Gary told Richard the insurance company placed "Salvage" on the title, because the insurance company had to pay off the previous owner of the Honda.

The following day Richard drove the Honda to the DMV to register it and was told that the vehicle would have to be inspected by the California Highway Patrol. At the CHP station, an investigator informed Richard that the Honda had been rebuilt using stolen parts. The Honda was impounded.

The investigation revealed that Gary had purchased the Honda at a local auction. Investigators found records and photos that showed that when Gary purchased the Honda, it was just a shell. The Honda was missing seats, interior, doors and sheet metal, but the vehicle’s identification numbers were intact.

In this case, the crook bought a stripped vehicle at the auction and then stole a vehicle of the same model and color. The crook stripped the stolen vehicle of the parts needed to rebuild the purchased vehicle. An interesting note about this type of crime is the economics. The crook purchased the Honda body shell, transmission and engine for $3,200 from a local auto auction. If purchased, the seats, interior, doors and sheet metal can cost upwards to $4,000. The profit margin for the crook is the theft of the donor vehicle he steals. Remember buyers, check ownership documents for "Salvage" vehicles and refer to the TRAP handout for preventative measures.