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Auto Theft Prevention/Vehicle Identification Number


QUESTION: Hi, I'm repairing a 1970 Mustang and the front inner fender has to be replaced. This is one point that the VIN is stamped - the other place is behind the windshield.
I've been told that I have to check my states laws regarding the removal and replacement of the VIN on the inner fender and I may have to apply for a replacement VIN - it's a classic car and I don't want to mess with the original VIN or it's going to lose a LOT of it's value.
In "United States Code, 2011 Edition
Sec. 511 - Altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers"

It states:
A person who removes or alters the VIN "shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both."
UNLESS they are
"(B) a person who repairs such vehicle or part, if the removal, obliteration, tampering, or alteration is reasonably necessary for the repair;"
and that me - I'm a person who is repairing such vehicle and the removal is necessary for the repair.

So the question is - does this law trump the state laws? Am I ok to replace the VIN after I remove the rusted piece?

ANSWER: Hello,

What a great question! What about when a dash on an import needs to be replaced when the stereo was forced out and destroyed? The VIN is located on the dash and obviously has to be switched and the rosette rivets are not available. Or when a driver's door is replaced, or the pillar in which the mylar label has to be transferred? I did it all when doing repair to theft recoveries.
In fact, the State Patrol never checked us out as a chop shop and Milwaukee police hung out at our shop, sometimes helping us with these events.
The reason was because our shop was in plain view on the street and not some little alley garage. Oh that's right, our front door was in an alley! LOL
While we did not purposely do any activities, I am sure we broke laws quite often. In fact, the cops thought they were smart by determining if the mylar identification label was switch by the use of a black light showing the old glue, our changing of these labels did not evidence such sloppiness.
Although thes laws were put on the books to stop thieves, they can be a real pain for collectors such as us.
I sent my 67' Mustang fastback for bead blasting and since the only identification on the vehicle was on the stamped inner fender and the door, these idiots at the body shop ha no concern. They did not remove the door VIN, which I did not even know if the door and inner fender came from the car, because it had been previously clipped, the VIN plate was blasted and destroyed as was the fender rail VIN.

Once these vehicles are altered by the State Patrol putting a reference number on them instead of a VIN, it destroys the value of the vehicle.
I just ordered another door VIN plate with the numbers I needed and installed it. Illegal, probably, but I was not about to have my $20k investment be worth $2k. I kept the old blasted VIN and included with title when I sold the car, but what else could I do?

You have a very bad situation here and I can relate and its not my fault of these old cars because of their inferior markings at rust points should have been included in this stupid law. However, it is what it is. I will not tell you to replace what you need to, stamp the VIN with a punch kit. I will not tell you to get a new VIN plate from one of the Mustang sources with the numbers you need, because that would be illegal and tell you to make the car as nice as possible and sell it for the best dollar you can get, in which you can buy a legit car, but really, one does not know how righteous those numbers are on cars that are very nice.

Since I have been involved in all areas of auto theft including being an expert against the FBI on real VIN switches in more that 300 cars including another illegal activity of which we call trap cars, having an illegal trap compartment for the concealment of contraband. Of course GM was nice enough on their trucks an SUVs to include such compartments where I kept my Glock 36 a .45 hand gun that I could access in seconds and the cops were too naive to know about! Thank you GM, you kept me safe when working in the murderous south side of Chicago or the fine cities of Gary and Detroit. The stinking arm pits of the US, where one was supposed to count on the cops to protect them.

Now that I told you how some people illegally play with VINs on a vehicle such as yours and my old Mustang, I know that you wouldn't do such a crime.
In my case, the car came from out of state and I had a buddy of mine on the Milwaukee Police department verify the VIN comparing to the title when I first bought it. Everything was cool before the car went for blasting. The bodyshop technically destroyed the value of the car. It was nice enough that I sold it for $15k.
I was involved in the movie Gone in 60 Seconds and did everything I could to get my Mustang in the movie. It would have been much cooler than the junk they used. I had it painted 1998 Lincoln Navigator tri-coat red which changed colors from red to pink, to copper depending on the lighting, along with Crager wheels. It would have been a much better Ellenor.
My book "Auto Theft Let the Truth Be known!" was used for some dialog when it was said "no damage to the steering column locking mechanisms." Oh well!

The legal way to handle you situation is to go to your State Patrol, prove all your ownership and what you need to do. Then they will put a stamped control numbe on the vehicle in place of the VIN completely ruining any value of the vehicle. As stated, I would not ever tell you to do an illegal act, however I have described as to how illegal acts could be performed to the vehicle to preserve any value for sale.

The only thing that you need to worry about is getting pulled over by an overzealous cop and the vehicle could be technically confiscated as cops like to do with neat cars, so they can drive them for drug busts etc!

I have ridden with the cops that have confiscated SHOs and other neat cars. Its just what cops do! Hmmm... this could be entitled as to how a cop steals a car.

Good luck on your ventures!

Release of new book!

This will blow your mind as to how our courts have been abused and have actually facilitated in the accusations of the insured being involved in the theft of their vehicle! Commonly based strictly on the testimony of a self-appointed forensic expert, that has submitted no evidence to support his conclusions. Even if the evidence of the ignition lock is preserved, no matter what methodology employed, the same general conclusion is derived which is the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type! What the heck is that? It does not mean although inferred that it was the insureds key. It is almost never stated as exactly what ignition key was last used.

I have been on the wildest ride anyone could ever take, having my reputation run through the mud. Serving as an expert for the plaintiff, I have turned into the referendum of the case and is a deliberate deflection from the very weak case the defense has. One of my depositions last year involving a car theft, questions were asked about my romantic life, where my ex wife was located or if I blamed State Farm for my divorce and so on. About 5 minutes was related to the evidence or lack of involving the vehicle! Crazy huh? You bet!

I am about to release a book, but not sure what format I am going to put it in as it pertains to my 16 years of serving as an expert witness involving the so-called forensics as it relates to reported stolen vehicles as to how they were last driven. This is a factual account as to what has happened to me personally and professionally i an on going campaign to prevent me from testifying. This is a proven fact. Otherwise, why would the other side go to all the time and expense to compile a book on me containing every deposition and trial transcript I have ever done? It is also memorialized that I am the only one in my field that has such a book on them. It's even got a very flashy title: "The Book."
The purpose for the attacks on me is/was because I have the ability to expose my counter parts as the frauds they are, conspiring with the insurance carrier to deny an auto theft claim and accuse the insured of fraud on a general conclusion made to appear to be exacting.
I will admit, I had gotten to close to this situation and until recently, realized as to what fraud had been perpetuated. Accused often for testifying with no physical evidence by the opposing experts, which was a fact. The only reason I had no physical evidence though is because they never retained the evidence! Kind of like the Menendez defense." I killed my mother and now I am an orphan."
In fact, in over 90% of the cases I have been involved with, the client attorney did not realize it, the courts did not realize it, the conclusions for the first responder (insurance expert) were based on no evidence gathered by the insurance or prosecution expert. In other words, there was fraudulent testimony on the part of the insurance expert. The scientific method for peer review as to how they reached their conclusion could not be performed. The conclusion on every vehicle no matter what the methodology that was employed was always the same on a national level. The vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. In other words, the key of the proper type is a general conclusion that appears to be exacting. What is a key of the proper type though? It is always inferred to be the insureds, but these guys use the ruse of forensics to make their conclusions seem exacting. Was it the insured's key? If so, which one? Was it a key not accounted for? Was it a thief's key? No one knows, but these conclusions are not supported by any evidence and the forensic locksmith operating as an independent company is used to give the insurance company a reason to do a witch hunt on the insured, manufacturing a financial motive with the means and opportunity, all done under the assumption treated as fact that the vehicle was even driven from the theft scene. The book I am supplying will demonstrate every possible way that the carrier's defense conspiring with the opposing experts went to every length possible to prevent me from testifying, including a 12 month federal investigation on me and my ex wife that ended in a 20 minute deposition and the case was closed against us.
It will be a very good read for expert witnesses and quite unimaginable as to the fraud and deceit making our court system in the US a mockery. These conclusions of the proper key even involved vehicles not recovered and the insured is denied payment of his theft claim. I guess that constitutes for lack of evidence to support the forensic locksmith's conclusion!
For more information, my email is for pre-order

This is going to change the way one looks at their insurance company and will realize that if they turn in a legitimate theft claim, the carrier will do anything and everything to accuse the insured of fraud in an attempt to deny payment on a theft claim. The game is rigged with the insured caught in the middle. It is absolutely amazing as to how carriers have perfected their investigation process over the last 15 years to a science. Sure, there are times the defense loses like on February 4, 2013 in Las Vega in Dane v Geico, where Dane serving as a pro Se attorney representing himself after being denied prevailed, but these cases a few and far.

I no longer serve as an expert witness, but will consult attorneys behind the scenes. I am highly effective as well serving my clients under Power of attorney. I am not a lawyer and cannot argue the law, but I am afforded the opportunity under these statutes to argue the facts (or lack of). Beyond all the hype are the facts that prove there are no facts in the case of denial in most circumstances!

I am not a JD Juris Doctrate. I am the Doctor of Justice!  Let the Truth Be Your Guide!

[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the answer - I'd like a bit of clarity on the law I posted ("United States Code, 2011 Edition
Sec. 511 - Altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers")

as there is a specific amendment for this sort of provision. It is dated 2011 so maybe it hasn't been used yet but it supersedes the old law that would deny anybody the allowance to remove that piece of metal with the VIN on it and reattach it after repairing the panel.


"(b)(1) Subsection (a) of this section does not
apply to a removal, obliteration, tampering, or
alteration by a person specified in paragraph (2)
of this subsection (unless such person knows
that the vehicle or part involved is stolen).
(2) The persons referred to in paragraph (1) of
this subsection are—
(B) a person who repairs such vehicle or
part, if the removal, obliteration, tampering,
or alteration is reasonably necessary for the

supersedes this:

"1994—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 103–322, §220003(a), amended
subsec. (a) generally. Prior to amendment, subsec. (a)
read as follows: ‘‘Whoever knowingly removes, obliterates, tampers with, or alters an identification number
for a motor vehicle, or motor vehicle part, shall be
fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more
than five years, or both.’’"

So the law states (unless I'm mistaken) that I can legally remove the VIN and replace it if that part of the panel needs repairing.


The caveat is "Unless I am mistaken." What if you are? I understand the clarity you are looking for, fully!
This is all subject to interpretation, and one could argue that you switched the VIN for a theft as well, even if you have a ton of pictures to support why you did what you did. This is why attorneys get the big bucks! these laws on the books are a very slippery slope and that is why I cannot interpret the meanings, nor am I legally allowed to.
I would suggest going to the State Patrol and dealing with a supervisor and ask him or her for advice. If they say, no problem, get it in writing!

I see a problem, but that is just in my own personal opinion. These laws are written in such a way, they create problems for legitimate repairs.

As I stated before, all you would need is an over-zealous cop that wanted your ca for their agency, and even if you did this totally legitimate repair, the car could be seized and cost you a ton of money in lawyers fees to get it back.

I am not trying to rain on your parade and you ask a very good question. One that has not got a definitive answer.

Auto Theft Prevention

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Rob Painter, ASE, CFL, CFEI


My background in auto theft is extensive. I have been directly involved in the repair of over 10,000 theft recovered vehicles. I also do insurance investigation as to how a vehicle was last operated. My clients are insurance companies and attorneys. Was featured in the A & E auto theft documentary "Stealing Wheels" July 26, 2000. Has consulted with Daimler Chrysler steering column engineers to make their steering columns harder to defeat. Holds patent # 6,039,140 for 8 different variations to protect air bags from theft.


ROB PAINTER, ASE, CFL, CFEI Forensic Vehicle Component Analyst Diplomate, Board Certified Forensic Examiner ASE Certified Auto, Collision, Med/Hvy/Duty Truck Technician Certified Forensic Locksmith Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator Certified Forensic Auto Theft Examiner Certified Auto Theft and Fraud Expert P.O. Box 190 Big Bend, WI 53103 Phone (414) 698-9696 Fax (262) 662-1352 As per federal court rules of evidence (702) (Daubert) my testimony has qualified me as: Auto Theft and Fraud Expert Forensic Vehicle Analyst Fire Origin and Cause Expert In the trial transcript of Holiday vs Progressive Insurance Company (March 12, 2002?Eugene, Oregon) with Holiday being my client-named ?the expert for experts.? BUSINESS EXPERIENCE Founder of the ?Forensic Institute of Auto Theft Analysis? (January 2002). This is the training school that will set the standards in determining the last operation of a reported stolen vehicle-burned or unburned. Much of my testing and procedures have been accepted as the guide for the forensic community. 1986 opened Auto Recovery Specialists Inc., providing exclusive repair of theft recovered and vandalized vehicles. The initial concept of the business was to return vehicles to their original shape before the theft, vandalism or fire. In 1987 bought the rights to the theft deterrent known as the ?Chicago Collar?. Duties include complete component replacement: dash, stereo system, interior, locks and coding, rebuilding steering columns, repairing and installing vehicle security system components (factory and after market), engine components, body repair, glass replacement, repair and service of air conditioning components, brake and suspension repair, and replacement, wiring harnesses etc. to return vehicle to pre-theft condition Complete reconstruction. During the past 17 years directly involved in the repair of over 10,000 theft-recovered and fire damaged Personally examined and rebuilt thousands of steering columns on both import and domestic vehicles Internationally acknowledged as expert in auto theft including court, consulting with insurance companies, attorneys and law enforcement. Consultant on steering columns, locks, stereo systems and vehicle security for Special Investigation Units for many large insurance carriers during the past eight years. Consulting services include but not limited to: How a vehicle was last operated (with or without keys in burned or unburned vehicles), Origin and Cause of vehicle fires, and vehicle defects. Provides services as a consultant and researcher to attorneys and insurance companies, and private industry throughout the US in cases related to vehicles. Has worked with crime prevention officers throughout the US establishing training programs designed to protect the public from becoming victims of auto theft. PATENT: 3/21/00 issued patent# 6,039,140 for 8 different variations of airbag anti-theft devices. PUBLICATIONS Currently authors articles and test reports on an ongoing basis for SIUs and the forensic/vehicle fire industry. Published author: (1,297 slide training course) Auto Theft/ Fraud Training Course) ?The Modern Forensic Approach to Auto Theft Investigation.? (January, 2001) Author: ?Variables to Be Considered In Vehicle Fire Investigation after Suppression.? (Insurance publication-November 2001) Author: ?Ford Magnesium Steering Columns and the Results to Ignition Components after a Fire?. Article for peer review from the fire and forensic community. (November 2001) Author: ?The Truth About GM VATS.? (Article) (November 2001) Author: ?The Truth About GM PASSLOCK TM? (Article) (November 2001) Author:? Auto Theft Investigation: Hollywood vs. Reality? (Article) (February 2001) For the John Cooke Fraud Report. Published author: (Manual) ?Forensic Vehicle Fire/ Arson and Auto Theft Investigation? (October 2000) Published author: (Article) ?Petty Claims? for the John Cooke Fraud Report (October, 1998) Published author (Manual) ?AUTO THEFT: LET THE TRUTH BE KNOWN!? (1998) (Previously distributed by Barnes & Nobel) Co-authored the investigation manual, ?Surreptitious Entry & Auto Theft & Burn & the Investigator.? (1999) Authored test questions on the subject of steering columns and vehicle security for CFL designation to be given by the International Association of Investigative Locksmiths. January, 2000 Published author: (Manual) ?Saginaw Steering Columns-What Has Not Been Told? Training manual for fire investigators. (March 2000) Published (Article) ?Beyond The Lock? (May 2000) Published Author: (Article) Fraud Defense Network-August, 2000 Edition-?Melting Steering Column Tests.? Published author: (Test Report) ?Burned Toyota Steering Column Testing to Determine How Last Operated?. Tool marks and procedures. (December 1999) Currently at the FBI Crime Lab in Washington DC and the US Army Crime Lab in Atlanta, GA for peer review. ACCOMPLISHMENTS Defeated the ?unstealable? Ford Securilock transponder system for a court case 10/10/00. They said it could not be done! Primary designer of a state of the art ?bait? car for a police department to catch car thieves. Worked with The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration and discovered a potential fire hazard on a vehicle and determined origin and cause of under hood fires on this type of vehicle. Featured as ?Auto Theft Expert? in the A & E auto theft documentary ?Stealing Wheels? that aired July 26, 2000. Contacted by Sears and Edelman Marketing to be a national spokesman for an anti theft device for vehicles. (November 1999) Invited to provide evaluation and consulting to steering column engineers at Daimler Chrysler Corporation in Auburn Hills, MI (10/19/99-10/22/99). The purpose of this project was to demonstrate how steering column locking mechanisms could be defeated without the use of a key and how to reinforce the columns against theft. Court Qualified as an Auto Theft Expert and my videos of defeating columns were also accepted by a Cleveland, Ohio Court in October 1999 as a valid piece of evidence. Contacted by Disney Touchstone Pictures for technical assistance in making the movie ?Gone in 60 Seconds? (March 1999) CONSULTANT FOR FOLLOWING ORGANIZATIONS ? Former contributor for The Insurance News Network (Auto theft and prevention) includes heading a forum for the public on how to protect their vehicles for 3+ years. ? Former editor and consultant for the public on matters involving auto theft and prevention 2000-2001 on the web at ? The Insurance Career Center (Auto theft and fraud). ? National Association of Investigative Specialists (Auto theft and fraud) ? Expert Find (Auto theft and fraud} TECHNICAL EXPERIENCE ? ASE (National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence) Certified in Auto: brakes, steering and suspension, engine repair, manual drive train and axles, air conditioning. Med/Heavy duty truck: gasoline engine repair, electrical/electronic components. Collision: elec.....

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