An undercover Channel 4 I-Team investigation demonstrated what police say is a flawed system in which thieves have too much ease in stealing cars and selling them for scrap.
Sam McCullough was a victim of the crime when his family's van had been towed right out of his driveway by a thief. By the time he realized it had been stolen, the van had been sold at a scrap yard and destroyed.
Metro police say the crime happens all the time to cars older than twelve years old. Police said all a thief needs is a way to tow the car and an ID in order to sell it to a scrap yard and get the money.
State law says scrap yards can buy vehicles that are older than twelve years without a title.
McCullough's van was older than twelve years, so when it was stolen and sold to a scrap yard, there were no questions asked of the seller.
All the thief had to provide was an ID and had to sign a bill of sale. A scrap yard has to hold the vehicle for three days and then can scrap it.
Police say in many cases, including McCullough's, by the time the victim realizes the car has been stolen, it's already been destroyed.
There's another problem in the system of selling cars to scrap yards. In McCullough's case, the thief showed the ID of a woman named Dabney Dean.
Dean is now charged in the crime, but when the Channel 4 I-Team tracked her down, she said someone had stolen her ID.
"It's crazy, but there's nothing I can do. It will be over when I go to court, but I'm upset about it. I'm going to jail for something I didn't do," Dean said.
To expose how this bold crime is committed, the Channel 4 I-Team borrowed a 1995 Geo, rented a trailer and set up our hidden cameras to see if scrap yards would buy our car, even if we didn't have a title or proof that it was ours.
Everything we captured at the scrap yards was completely legal, and police said that's the problem.
Our first stop was at a salvage yard in Nashville. A worker there said that the owner would be back later, but indicated that they'd likely buy the van and never mentioned even needing to see an ID.
"I don't need a title or nothing?" said our undercover photojournalist.
"No," said the worker.
We then headed down to Rutherford County, where a worker first asked our photojournalist if we had a title for the car. Our photojournalist said no, and the worker offered to buy it.
All that worker required was a photo ID and a bill of sale.
At another salvage yard, our photojournalist even suggested the car wasn't ours.
"I don't think anybody owns it," our photojournalist said about the car.
The worker at the salvage yard said if our photojournalist had an ID, then he would write him a check on the spot.
The Channel 4 I-Team finally ended up back at the first Nashville salvage yard, where despite what the worker said earlier, the owner said if we didn't have proof of ownership, he wasn't interested.
But all the other salvage yards were ready to buy.
Police said state law should be changed to require that a title be presented to a salvage yard in order to sell a car.
"The laws are stacked against the everyday consumer," McCullough said.
Police said if you plan on leaving a car in your driveway while you're away on vacation, make sure to park it in your garage, or at the very least, tell your neighbors so they know to keep an eye on your vehicle.
Copyright 2012 WSMV(Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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