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Stolen high-end cars recovered at Port of L.A.

April 3, 2012 |  7:45 pm

Stolen cars recovered
The shipping containers filled with “used fitness equipment” have given customs agents at the Port of Los Angeles a workout.

Instead of exercise gear, however, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered the containers held a 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia valued at $280,000 and 15 other stolen high-end vehicles headed for Hong Kong and Vietnam, officials said Tuesday.

Four other expensive cars had already been shipped to Vietnam and the U.S. is working with Vietnamese customs officials to have them returned to this country, said Jaime Ruiz, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The stolen vehicles were discovered after a car rental company became suspicious when a GPS device in a rented 2010 Ferrari showed that the vehicle was at the harbor and was not moving. After opening the container with the GPS-equipped Ferrari, agents checked other containers whose manifests also listed “used fitness equipment” as the cargo and discovered the other cars.

Officers estimate the value of the recovered vehicles at $1.5 million. When resold in Asia, the cars’ prices typically double, Ruiz said.

The smugglers apparently stole the cars after leasing or purchasing them using false identities. Several local dealerships were defrauded, along with banks and insurance companies, authorities said.

Ruiz said the investigation into the car smuggling ring was continuing, although no arrests have been made. The recovered vehicles will be turned over to the California Highway Patrol for return to their rightful owners, he said.

Last year, officers seized 61 vehicles and 49 engines valued at $1.8 million from outbound containers at what customs agents refer to as the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport. Two dozen of the cars had been reported stolen.

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-- Bob Pool

Photo: Among the stolen vehicles Customs and Border Protection officers recovered was a 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia valued at $280,000. Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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