BMV responds to stolen title reports

The unidentified man bought this truck, only to have it seized.

Sandra Chapman/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - The BMV is responding to a 13 Investigates report about issues with stolen vehicle titles.

Indiana's Bureau of Motor Vehicles issued a new title for a stolen truck purchased on June 17, 2008, two weeks after the truck was reported stolen in Indianapolis.

"That's what the bad guys are counting on, they're not going to look," said an undercover detective on the case.

The 25-year-old man bought the truck from an independent seller who claimed he had access to vehicles from auctions nationwide.

At the BMV, the customer was charged registration fees by the state and is stuck with a $13,000 bill and no truck.

"Everything matched up, ran fine. There wasn't any causes or blemishes or anything like that. They said, you know, here are your plates," the customer said.

The bureau issued the title and plates even though the BMV checked a national database to ensure there were no problems with issuing a title. But something or someone failed.

First, undercover officers say a member of the car theft ring got the title from the BMV, not the actual buyer, which is a violation of BMV policy.

"In this case, they obtained a title for him in his name," the detective said.

"No, you cannot. You cannot title a car in someone else's name," said BMV Communications Director Dennis Rosebrough.

Second, the thieves glued on an old vehicle identification number.

"The paperwork was in order. It looked right," said Rosebrough. "There are ways that the system does not catch them and that's why they are called criminals."

But now the customer is paying for it. His name is being withheld because police have confirmed he is a victim of a local car theft ring that is driving circles around the state.

Now, not only is he out of a truck, but once he reported it to his loan company, he says they seized all the money in his account without warning.

"Was real hasty with me, didn't really seem to want to give me a chance or anything, kind of like I was the crook in the situation," the man said.

He has been paying on the loan ever since.

"It's tough, you know, to go down there every month and pay them this payment on time and they know they're getting away with it," the man said. "And you don't have anything to show for it."

Police say there could be others. So far, 30 cars have been seized, but no word yet on how many titles have made it through the system.

"Sometimes, the bad guys win," Rosebrough said.

A representative from the loan company told 13 Investigates they don't believe they are responsible.

"I've been here 18 years and have never had a situation like this. There's no question [it's] unfortunate," said Rick Thornburg of the Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union. "He bought the wrong thing, from the wrong place, at the wrong time. We took $600 to secure our risk. Legally, we have the right and applied it to his account. I don't believe we have any responsibility."

Thornburg also said no one checked the VIN on the truck. The best advice is to physically check the VINs and title histories closely.

The Indiana attorney general's office says this situation is not covered under the state's lemon law.