Couple has questions after agents seize Land Rovers

Published: Jul. 22, 2014 at 1:39 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2016 at 2:11 AM EDT
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STATESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - When Jennifer Brinkley saw a line of law enforcement vehicles coming up her driveway last Tuesday she didn't know what to think. "I haven't done anything wrong."

The Homeland Security agents were not there to take her away, they were looking for illegally imported Land Rover Defenders. Brinkley had bought one via the internet last year and had invested more than $60,000 into the rare vehicle.

She thought she had checked it all out and she legally owned it. "They popped up the hood and looked at the Vehicle Identification Number and compared it with a piece of paper and then took the car with them," she said.

It turns out that in recent years some importers have changed the VIN number to comply with import regulations. All vehicles coming into the United States must meet strict safety and emissions standards. Land Rover Defenders, for the most part, do not meet the standards.

But a quirk in the law does allow the importing of vehicles 25-years-old and older regardless of whether the standards are met. There have been cases in recent years where importers have changed the VIN to make the vehicle appear older and thereby allowing it to come into the United States.

Defenders, even ones 25-years-old, will sell at a premium in America. Brinkley says she bought the vehicle online and has been trying to reach the seller but unsuccessfully.

The lawsuit, that has dozens of vehicles listed for seizure, shows the VIN number for her car but a different owner than her. Brinkley has hired an attorney to look into the claims but says the agents who took the vehicle still have not told her where it is being kept so she can check the VIN numbers herself.

A vehicle typically has the VIN number on several locations and all the numbers are supposed to match. If they do in this case, Brinkley says the agents need to relent.

"I want my car back," she said.

She has been given 35 days to appeal the seizure.

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