Trans-Atlantic Partnership Seeks to Crush Illegal Trade of Unsafe Vehicles

NEWARK, New Jersey—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) destroyed an illegally imported and unsafe Mini Cooper Thursday at a salvage yard in New Jersey following a recent seizure at the Newark Seaport. CBP captured photos,b-roll and principal sound bites for use by news media.
This Mini is just one of dozens of vehicles intercepted at ports of entry across the U.S, including ports in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida, Houston and Tacoma, Washington.
Over the past year, CBP has increased targeting and inspections of suspect imported vehicles, specifically Minis and Land Rover Defenders, as part of Operation Atlantic, a new trans-Atlantic partnership between U.S. and U.K. regulatory and law enforcement officials.
“Intercepting illegal and unsafe imports is a top priority for CBP,” said Brenda Smith, CBP’s assistant commissioner for International Trade. “Through Operation Atlantic, we are stopping illegally imported, unsafe vehicles from driving on our roadways, and at the same time, partnering with our colleagues in the UK to stop this criminal activity at its source.”
Launched in March 2014 by CBP’s Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center, U.S. and U.K. officials are working together to identify illegal shipments of vehicles at ports of entry across the U.S. and U.K. Following inspections of more than 500 vehicles, the operation has led to several criminal investigations in both countries.
CBP officials hosted their U.K. law enforcement counterparts at headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in Baltimore and Newark to discuss expanding the operation.  Gordon Roberts, detective chief inspector of the U.K. Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, stated that “Operation Atlantic is one of the more important initiatives for our office, as it clearly demonstrates the significance and benefits of multilateral information exchanges in the enforcement of the laws of both our countries.”
These illegal vehicles are represented on import entry documents as being 25 years or older, but may be newer, illegally reconfigured vehicles, or even reconstructed from stolen vehicle parts. The vehicle identification numbers (VIN) have been fraudulently altered.  These fraudulent actions attempt to use as cover exemptions within the statutes and regulations administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency that allow older vehicles to be imported without restriction.
“Safety is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s top priority and we are committed to preventing the illegal importation of vehicles and exposing their potential safety risks,” said Nancy Lewis, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration associate administrator for enforcement. “Along with our partners at CBP and CTAC, we’ll remain diligent in our enforcement efforts to protect the driving public.”
CBP officers from the New York Field Office working at the Newark Seaport seized the Mini Cooper June 9 because the VIN on the vehicle was fraudulent. “We will continue to work with our partners at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and in the United Kingdom to prevent the illegal import of vehicles that place the health and safety of the American public at risk, “said Leon Hayward, assistant director of field operations for trade cargo security at CBP’s New York Field Office.
CBP encourages buyers who suspect fraudulent activity to report the suspected trade violations via CBP’s e-Allegations website. All information submitted is voluntary and confidential.
Still and video images along with sound bites from the principal officials is available via CBP’s Flickr page and on CBP’s video imagery page on DVIDs, a DoD hosted video distribution site.
·         Video: B-roll of the destruction of the Mini Cooper at the salvage yard
·         Video: Sound bites from CBP’s Assistant Commissioner for the Office of International Trade
·         Video: Sound bites from the United Kingdom’s Gordon Roberts, detective chief inspector
·         Video: Sounds bites from a CBP officer about the inspection process
In 2013, CBP seized and destroyed an illegally imported Land Rover Defender that did not meet federal safety standards and had a fraudulent VIN, which increased the public’s awareness about illegal vehicle imports and served as a catalyst for Operation Atlantic.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.