U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in the Baltimore Field Office set a record in 2019 for recoveries of stolen vehicles being exported from the United States. Collectively, CBP officers at seaports in Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia recovered 246 stolen vehicles worth an estimated $10,320,000.
The Baltimore Field Office ranks second nationally behind only the New York Field Office, which recovered 257 stolen vehicles during 2019. Nationally, CBP’s Office of Field Operations recovered 1,023 stolen vehicles during import and export examinations.
The record year for recoveries represent a 112 percent increase over the 129 stolen vehicles that CBP officers recovered during 2018.
Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) engage in numerous revenue-generating enterprises, including narcotics distribution, weapons smuggling, financial crimes, and stolen vehicle sales overseas. TCO’s smuggle their illicit proceeds as bulk currency out of the United States in stolen vehicles and other means, and launder their proceeds by purchasing vehicles and other commodities they sell overseas. CBP conducts outbound enforcement examinations to intercept these illicit proceeds.
“Export examinations are a critical component to Customs and Border Protection’s border security mission. Transnational criminal organizations use stolen vehicles as currency and they conceal illicit revenue from their illegal activities in outbound cargo,” said Casey Durst, Director of Field Operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office. “CBP officers remain committed to striking back at criminal groups where it hurts most, by intercepting their illegal exports and illicit financial gains.”
Individually, CBP’s Area Port of Baltimore and Port of Wilmington each set records for recovered stolen vehicles, with 231 and 14 vehicle recoveries, respectively, during 2019. The Area Port of Philadelphia recovered one stolen vehicle. CBP officers turned all recovered stolen vehicles over to local police for investigation.
During the last two years, CBP officers have observed a significant rise in the number of recovered stolen vehicles. For example, from 2015 through 2017, Baltimore Field Office officers have recovered 41, 14, and 32 vehicles, respectively. However, officers recovered 109 stolen vehicles during 2018, and another 246 during 2019.
The following are additional details on recovered outbound stolen vehicles during 2019.
- The Baltimore Field Office ranked #2 nationally during 2019. It ranked #6, #9, #5 and #3 from 2015 through 2018, respectively.
- The Area Port of Baltimore ranked #2 nationally with 231 recovered vehicles during 2019.
- The Port of Wilmington ranked #13 nationally with 14 recovered vehicles during 2019.
- 95 percent (234 vehicles) were destined to West African nations, including Benin, The Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
- 80 percent (198 vehicles) were from model years 2015 through 2019.
- 63 percent (156 vehicles) were sport utility vehicles. Nationally, SUV’s comprised 45 percent of CBP’s recovered stolen vehicles during 2019.
- The top-5 recovered stolen vehicles were the Land Rover Range Rover (28), Toyota Camry (15), Toyota Rav4 (12), Toyota 4Runner (9), and Cadillac Escalade (7).
- The most expensive recovered stolen vehicle was a 2017 Audi R8, valued at $162,900, was destined to Togo.
- The newest vehicle was a 2020 Mercedes Benz GLE350, destined to West Africa.
- The oldest vehicle was a 1988 Mack truck, destined to West Africa. The oldest passenger vehicle was a 2002 Toyota Camry, destined to Nigeria.
- The stolen vehicle recoveries included one motorcycle, a 2009 Yamaha XT250.
The Baltimore Field Office spans from Central New Jersey to Northern Virginia and west to Pittsburgh. CBP officers help secure our nation and enforce our laws by conducting inspections on international trade and travel, including import and export examinations at seaports, airports, military transport bases and international express delivery facilities.
CBP officers routinely examine outbound vehicle documentation for authenticity and compliance, and compare vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to stolen vehicle reports. Officers also ensure all vehicles comply with existing U.S. laws and regulations. See CBP guidance for Exporting a Motor Vehicle.