UPDATE | 32 recalled Volkswagens and Audis stolen from Michigan tied to Clarksville auction
Police are racing to track down cars with questionable titles that were sold at a Clarksville, Indiana, auto action -- and the unfortunate new owners have no idea their vehicles are tied to a federal investigation.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Police are racing to track down cars with questionable titles that were sold at a Clarksville, Indiana, auto action, and the unfortunate new owners have no idea their vehicles are tied to a federal investigation.
It was all part of an elaborate scheme that aimed to put recalled Volkswagens back on the road.
"They were given fake Michigan titles," said Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin. "They were brought to southern Indiana and Kentucky ... We know at least 60 of them were missing."
Indiana State Police said 12 of the stolen cars are still on the Manheim auction lot in Clarksville, including eight Volkswagens and four Audis.
"Volkswagen was keeping track of all these vehicles they were purchasing back or buying back," Goodin said. "When these VIN numbers starting showing up again in their system, that's when the red flags started flying up."
On Monday, Volkswagen was en route to pick them up and take them back to Detroit.
The vehicles came from the Pontiac Silverdome lot in Michigan. The view from above the silverdome looks like a car graveyard, filled with faulty Volkswagens. The auto giant rented the facility to store all of the buyback vehicles after government sanctions forced Volkswagen to pull them off the road.
"These vehicles were equipped with software that masked the true amount of the pollutants being released," said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a January 2017 press conference.
But 32 of those cars disappeared from that lot, reappearing again at the Manheim auction, brought by the Last Stop Auto in Radcliff, Kentucky.
When asked if it was an inside job Goodin replied, "Daggone it, sure looks like it."
Legal representatives of Last Stop Auto said the business purchased recalled Audis and Volkswagens for $11,000 from a supplier out of Michigan and sold them at auction for about $18,000, not knowing they were stolen.
Last week, deputies in Hardin County, Kentucky, seized six Volkswagen Passats and three SUVs tied to the same business.
"Everyone is a victim in this case, on our end," Goodin said. "Obviously, there is someone who stole the vehicles, someone who manufactured fake titles. That is something the Michigan authorities and also the FBI is handling up in the Michigan area. At this time, we have no reason to believe anyone down here is going to be targeted for an investigation."
Now the effort to chase down the rest of the stolen cars begins. Fifteen sold through Manheim already went out to dealerships in Georgia, Illinois and California. One was sold to a customer at the Volkswagen dealership in Clarksville.
Goodin says the new owners are now getting phone calls telling them to bring back their vehicles. The debacle will likely leave customers, the auction lot and dealers all driving in circles trying to determine who will take the loss.
Authorities say if you've recently purchased one of the recalled cars and are questioning the title, check back with the Sheriff's office where you had the car inspected, or contact Indiana or Kentucky State Police.
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