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Saturday, June 28, 2008

AUTO THEFT AND SMUGGLING IN THE UNITED STATES HAS BECOME A SOPHISTICATED BUSINESS AND INTERNATIONAL TERRORISTS, MIAMI-DADE AUTO THEFT TASK FORCE

Auto theft and smuggling in both the United States and Canada has become a sophisticated business and is one of the "staple enterprises" of many organized crime groups (and terrorists) throughout the world.

In 1995, the North American Export Committee (NAEC), comprised of law enforcement and insurance representatives from Canada and the United States, was formed to examine and combat this serious development which continues into 2009. The NAEC’s goal is to provide a model plan that can eventually be implemented at every port to stop the exportation of stolen vehicles.

This new model, which relies heavily upon electronic reporting of all exported vehicles, is already in use at the Customs Port of Miami and other test sites. Customs has been represented at the NAEC since its inception. Both the Office of Field Operations and the Office of Investigations have participated in all NAEC meetings, intelligence exchanges, and test site operations at various ports of entry.

SAIC/Miami Group Supervisor Peter Girard, had served as supervisor for the Miami-Dade Auto Theft Task Force, and implemented the NAEC’s original pilot program. The NAEC has honored Agent Girard and the Customs Service by instituting the NAEC Peter Girard Investigative Award. This annual award recognizes outstanding export-related auto theft investigations conducted in North America by groups or individuals.

The investigation started with a trip to Moscow and Kaliningrad, Russia, where Agent Diamond and Detective Jack Pierce of the Task Force instructed Russian police in auto theft investigation techniques. In Kaliningrad the local police requested assistance in identifying numerous vehicles that had been imported from Miami, Fla.

Subsequent investigations revealed an organized ring involved in the illegal export of stolen sports utility and luxury vehicles from the South Florida area to Russia. The vehicles stolen were being renumbered, and exported using counterfeit titles bearing counterfeit U.S. Customs export stamps.

Violators in the United States were mainly Polish nationals who had entered the country illegally using counterfeit German passports. By their own admission, in a one-year period violators had exported over 400 vehicles valued at several million dollars.

Approximately nine suspects were subsequently indicted and arrested, including the Polish nationals and the U.S. owners of an import/export company and a tow truck company. One suspect remains a fugitive, believed to be in Gdansk, Poland. The head of the organization in Miami (currently incarcerated) is also wanted in Germany for organized crime activities. Charges against the violators include exportation of stolen vehicles, interstate transportation of renumbered vehicles, and money laundering.

Other Customs personnel nominated and recognized by the NAEC Executive Committee for outstanding export investigations and seizures include Special Agent Alan Childers (SAIC/Miami), and the Outbound Enforcement Team (Los Angeles/Long Beach). Agent Childers and Detective Moe Traumell investigated an organization resulting in 18 indictments and the recovery of over $2.1 million in stolen property. The Los Angeles Outbound Enforcement Team, in conjunction with their local FEAR (Foreign Export and Recovery Team) Task Force, investigated an organized auto theft ring smuggling stolen vehicles to the Middle East.

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