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CBP Vehicle Export Team is 'Watchful Eye' at Port of Miami

Release Date: 
May 19, 2011

The Miami Seaport Vehicle Export Team has been the watchful eye at the Miami Seaport by preventing the exportation of stolen vehicles and contraband that could ultimately fund terrorist and organized drug and money laundering organizations.

The MSVET is committed to protecting the American public and legal international trade by being alert to any potential threats. They have instituted a comprehensive and invaluable tool designed to assess and enforce compliance of the vehicle export process.

A stolen motorcycle intended to be smuggled out of the U.S. was found, broken into parts, in these three barrels by team members.

A stolen motorcycle intended to be smuggled out of the U.S. was found, broken into parts, in these three barrels by team members.

The team is currently staffed by four veteran CBP officers and is led by CBP Officer George Politakis. Politakis has been the lead officer since 2007 and most recently oversaw the team as acting supervisor.

The team uses a multi-layered enforcement approach utilizing numerous enforcement databases, mobile NII and K-9 assets, as well as, the resources provided by the Miami-Dade Auto Theft Task Force with which CBP has a long standing and successful partnership.

The MSVET is responsible for verifying that the proper documents that establish ownership, such as a Certificate of Title, commercial invoice or Bill of Sale, and any additional documents that may be required such as an Export Power of Attorney are submitted to CBP a minimum of 72 hours prior to the exportation of the vehicle.

The MSVET has been instrumental in the successful outcome of numerous joint operations with the ATTF, that have resulted in vehicle seizures, as well as the apprehension and ultimate conviction of criminal subjects.

The team has also worked with foreign governments to successfully secure the return of numerous stolen vehicles. Some of the vehicles recovered by the team include: a stolen motorcycle manifested as foodstuff destined to Jamaica, two contender vessels valued at $300,000 brought back from the Bahamas, and a stolen Honda Accord returned from the Dominican Republic.

Targeting stolen vehicles is interesting work. On any given day officers are looking for three main types of stolen vehicles:

  • NCIC Hits - where stolen vehicles are found as is or in an unaltered state by NCIC checks during processing or physical inspection;
  • Cloned - where the stolen vehicle's VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, has been replaced with a non-stolen vehicle's VIN, such as one from a salvaged vehicle; and
  • Fraudulent VINs and/or Titles - where the stolen vehicle has fake titles and illegal VIN plates so there is no record of the vehicle being stolen or salvaged.

The MSVET has worked closely with the CBP National Targeting Center-Cargo, Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration and ATTF in successfully recovering a plethora of stolen vehicles that were part of a trade-based money laundering scheme.

From fiscal year 2009 through the first quarter of fiscal year 2011, the MSVET processed 157,520 vehicles and recovered 245 vehicles and parts thereof worth nearly $9.9 million. Most of the vehicles were destined for the Caribbean, South and Central America, and Europe. Among the vehicles seized are heavy equipment trucks, SUVs, All Terrain Vehicles and motorcycles. The seized vehicles are then turned over to the ATTF who then continue with an investigation to determine who the rightful owner is.

"The Miami Seaport Vehicle Export Team's multi-layered enforcement approach, sophisticated VIN analysis and enforcement tools, long standing working relationships with exporting carriers and foreign governments, and the very successful partnership with the ATTF have all contributed to position the MSVET at the elite echelon of vehicle recovery teams in the nation," said Politakis.

Last modified: 
February 8, 2017