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Call Kurtis Investigates: CHP Destroyed My Car Saying It Was Cloned

SACRAMENTO (CBS13)  The CHP says the car Ruben Manasyan bought off Craigslist four years ago was stolen. Investigators showed up unannounced in November and had his 2009 Toyota Camry towed away claiming it was evidence.

"They just come out of the blue. Boom, car is stolen," he said.

According to CHP paperwork, the car's Vehicle Identification Number or VIN was switched. Ruben says the investigator told him he may never get it back.

"So you won't see this car ever again," he recalls the officer telling him. "We're going to destroy it."

The DMV says anyone buying a used car should be aware of an underground economy known as car cloning. It's like identify theft for cars where somebody steals a vehicle, pries off the VIN plates and replaces them with a VIN from a junked or totaled car are one stolen out of state.

"It's really difficult to know if any given part is stolen," said DMV Investigator Tom Edwards.

He says before buying a used car, the law allows you to take it to a mechanic. Ask the mechanic to compare VIN's strategically etched on parts throughout the car to see if they match or showed signs of tampering.

According to court documents, during a large scale investigation involving numerous VIN switched vehicles, the CHP discovered Ruben's car was originally stolen in Roseville in 2010 and the vehicle had been VIN switched. The insurance company paid out the claim to the then owner.
So what happens to Ruben's car now? A judge ordered the CHP to destroy it, meaning Ruben is out his car and the $15,000 he says he paid for it.

Ruben did not give us the name of the person who sold him the car in 2011. If you don't pay a mechanic to check your vehicle, at least look at the VIN on the dashboard and inside the driver's door to see if there are any signs the plates have been replaced.

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